Archive for May, 2022

29
May
22

Exhibition: ‘Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 17th March – 25th July, 2022

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Photographer in the Field' 1907 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Photographer in the Field
1907 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

Life in all its variety!

A fascinating look at American real photo postcards and the stories they tell about the US in the early 20th century. They “reveal truths about a country that was growing and changing with the times – and experiencing the social and economic strains that came with those upheavals.”

Sometimes all is not as clear cut as the professional (vernacular) photographers would have us believe when they recorded a moment that would otherwise have been lost to posterity. For example, the Just Government League formed in 1909 – Maryland’s largest organisation advocating for women’s suffrage – was, like many suffrage organisations, predominantly white, Protestant, highly-educated, and financially well-off.

“In the early 20th century, in addition to its large African American population, Baltimore saw an influx of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe who were Jewish and Catholic. Anti-immigrant sentiment was widespread and supported by the eugenic science of the period, to which many of Baltimore’s elite subscribed.”

As with everything in life and photography, nothing is ever black and white. While the photograph captures one moment, one time freeze, the hidden stories embedded in light and language can be excavated with patience and understanding to reveal the many truths of life – that is, the hopes and fears, the discriminations and freedoms of fallible human beings.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Lumberjacks' 1907 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Lumberjacks
1907 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'The Lions, Scio, Oregon' 1907

 

Unidentified artist (American)
The Lions, Scio, Oregon
1907
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Telephone Operator' 1907 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Telephone Operator
1907 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

Through occupational portraits as well as workplace snapshots, real photo postcards served as means of visually representing women’s work outside the home. Snapshot photography’s aesthetic norms may have privileged domesticity, but the same cannot be said for real photo postcards, which illustrate a broad gamut of jobs that women undertook outside of the domestic realm. In this way, real photo postcards both captured women’s participation in public life and, through the cards’ subsequent distribution, visually reinforced it.

Women’s work as shown in real photo postcards includes representations of both exceptional forms of labor and quotidian but under acknowledged ones. Some postcards illustrate the degree to which women were beginning to enter lines of work widely considered too hazardous for their participation. One card, for example, depicts a female lion tamer named Holmes, brandishing a whip as she poses flanked by four lions who sit neatly on pedestals (187). Others show an early female truck driver, Luella Bates (193), and the race car driver Irene Dare (194).

In other fields of work outside the home, women constituted a more expected class of labourers. Postcards depicting telephone exchanges featured women operators, who quickly came to dominate this field of work, owing in part to employers’ belief that they had better telephone manners than men, and in part to the fact that they could be paid considerably less than men.11 On the back of one postcard (188), which depicts an Elmira, New York, roomful of telephone exchange operators clad in shirtwaists and skirts, the sender identifies herself as one of those pictured: “This is where I hold forth,” she writes. Another operator (195), this one pictured solo at the switchboard as she offers a smile to the camera…

Annie Rudd. “Between Private and Public,” in Lynda Klich and Benjamin Weiss (eds.,). Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation. MFA Publications, 2022, p. 177.

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Street paving, Wyalusing, Pennsylvania' 1907 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Street paving, Wyalusing, Pennsylvania
1907 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

This postcard depicts street layers working outside the Wyalusing Hotel in the town of Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, in 1907. According to the book, real estate development provided good opportunities for photo postcard photographers.

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Photographer and Sitter with Dog' 1907

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Photographer and Sitter with Dog
1907
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Votes for Women' 1907 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Votes for Women
1907 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

In 1903, at the height of the worldwide craze for postcards, the Eastman Kodak Company unveiled a new product: the postcard camera. The device exposed a postcard-sized negative that could print directly onto a blank card, capturing scenes in extraordinary detail. Portable and easy to use, the camera heralded a new way of making postcards. Suddenly almost anyone could make photo postcards, as a hobby or as a business. Other companies quickly followed in Kodak’s wake, and soon photographic postcards joined the billions upon billions of printed cards in circulation before World War II.

Real photo postcards, as such photographic cards are called today, captured aspects of the world that their commercially published cousins never could. Big postcard publishers tended to play it safe, issuing sets that showed celebrated sites from towns across the United States like town halls, historic mills, and post offices. But the photographers who walked the streets or set up temporary studios worked fast and cheap. They could take a risk on a scene that might appeal to only a few, or capture a moment that would otherwise have been lost to posterity. As the Victorian formality of earlier photography fell away, shop interiors, construction sites, train wrecks, and people acting silly all began to appear on real photo postcards, capturing everyday life on film like never before.

Featuring more than 300 works drawn from the MFA’s Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive, this exhibition takes an in-depth look at real photo postcards and the stories they tell about the US in the early 20th century. The cards range from the dramatic and tragic to the inexplicable, funny, and just plain weird. Along the way, they also reveal truths about a country that was growing and changing with the times – and experiencing the social and economic strains that came with those upheavals.

Today, real photo postcards open up the past in ways that can surprise and puzzle. Few of them come with explanations, so over and over again even the most striking images leave only questions: “why?” and sometimes even “what?” “Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation” is a forceful reminder that memory and historical understanding are evanescent.

Text from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website [Online] Cited 06/05/2022

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'A man poses in an Uncle Sam costume in Patchogue, Long Island, New York' c. 1908

 

Unidentified artist (American)
A man poses in an Uncle Sam costume in Patchogue, Long Island, New York
c. 1908
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

A man poses for a studio photo in an Uncle Sam costume in Patchogue – a village in Long Island, New York – circa 1908. The author writes: ‘Uncle Sam as a symbol for the U.S. was ensured not only by the works of nineteenth-century cartoonists like Thomas Nast and James Montgomery Flagg’s “I Want You” recruiting poster during WWI, but also because of everymen like this one, who emulated Sam’s long white whiskers and stars-and-stripes suit.’

Sarah Holt and Sadie Whitelocks. “Step back in time to yesteryear America: Fascinating new book of vintage photo postcards reveals life in the U.S during the early 20th century, from gun gangs to Grand Canyon visits,” on the Mailonline website 14 April 2022 [Online] Cited 02/05/2022

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Group of men outside the post office in the city of Lenox, Iowa' 1909 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Group of men outside the post office in the city of Lenox, Iowa
1909 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Streetcar in Columbus, Ohio' around 1909 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Streetcar in Columbus, Ohio
around 1909 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'The Strike is On' 1910

 

Unidentified artist (American)
The Strike is On
1910
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Smith Studio (publisher) 'U.S President Theodore Roosevelt speaking to a crowd at Freeport, Illinois' 1910

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Smith Studio (publisher)
U.S President Theodore Roosevelt speaking to a crowd at Freeport, Illinois
1910
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

Look up and you’ll see former U.S President Theodore Roosevelt speaking to a crowd at Freeport, Illinois. It’s thought the picture was captured in 1910, the year after his presidency came to an end. The book reads: ‘In 1910, Roosevelt undertook a transcontinental trip that passed through Illinois, stopping in Freeport, Belvedere, and Chicago. The events in Freeport were planned for September 8, 1910’.

Sarah Holt and Sadie Whitelocks. “Step back in time to yesteryear America: Fascinating new book of vintage photo postcards reveals life in the U.S during the early 20th century, from gun gangs to Grand Canyon visits,” on the Mailonline website 14 April 2022 [Online] Cited 02/05/2022

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Man in a fur coat' 1910

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Man in a fur coat
1910
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

Featuring a moustachioed man in a fur coat, this postcard is from 1910. ‘Bearing a message in Norwegian, this card, addressed to Ole Flatland, of Canby, Minnesota, is testimony to the large and vibrant Scandinavian community in the upper Midwest,’ the book notes. It says in the absence of contextual information, ‘it is still possible to read images through clues offered in the physical object of the postcard itself, such as a caption on the front or message on the back, the clothes or uniforms that were worn, an object that was held, a person’s expression or body position, or the props and background chosen by the sitter to express a meaningful representation of themselves’

Sarah Holt and Sadie Whitelocks. “Step back in time to yesteryear America: Fascinating new book of vintage photo postcards reveals life in the U.S during the early 20th century, from gun gangs to Grand Canyon visits,” on the Mailonline website 14 April 2022 [Online] Cited 02/05/2022

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Flood at H. H. Miller's Place Sample Room, Galena, Illinois' 1911

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Flood at H. H. Miller’s Place Sample Room, Galena, Illinois
1911
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

Men huddle together outside a bar, HH Miller’s Palace Sample Room, in the small town of Galena in Illinois, during the Valentine’s Day flood of 1911. The book says that the town ‘faced flooding every spring, but the Valentine’s Day flood of 19111 was particularly bad’. It continues: ‘HH Miller, the proprietor of the bar in this postcard, used the card as a New Year’s greeting the following January: “This is my saloon, the water was to the floor. Behind poast [sic] is myself and Berne and the man with white coat is my bartender. Good night.”‘ The tome also notes that these ‘news-style’ photo postcards, documenting ‘fires, floods, explosions, political rallies, strikes, and parades’ were ‘the direct forebear to the citizen journalism of the digital age, captured by ubiquitous smartphones and disseminated through social media’.

Sarah Holt and Sadie Whitelocks. “Step back in time to yesteryear America: Fascinating new book of vintage photo postcards reveals life in the U.S during the early 20th century, from gun gangs to Grand Canyon visits,” on the Mailonline website 14 April 2022 [Online] Cited 02/05/2022

 

Unidentified artist (American) R. & H. Photo (publisher) 'Seen in Chinatown, San Jose, California' 1912 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
R. & H. Photo (publisher)
Seen in Chinatown, San Jose, California
1912 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Electricia, the Woman Who Tames Electricity' 1912

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Electricia, the Woman Who Tames Electricity
1912
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Gensmer & Wolfram Grocery Store, Portland, Oregon' 1913

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Gensmer & Wolfram Grocery Store, Portland, Oregon
1913
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Sufragists' about 1912

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Suffragists
about 1912
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Mary F. Mitchell Feeding Chickens, Wichita, Kansas' about 1912

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Mary F. Mitchell Feeding Chickens, Wichita, Kansas
about 1912
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Washerwomen' 1913

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Washerwomen
1913
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Long's Place Lunch Car' about 1914

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Long’s Place Lunch Car
about 1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Teacher in the Classroom' about 1914

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Teacher in the Classroom
about 1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'National Woollen Mills in Wheeling, West Virginia' around 1914

 

Unidentified artist (American)
National Woollen Mills in Wheeling, West Virginia
around 1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Men Drinking' about 1914

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Men Drinking
about 1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Tourists at Mariposa Grove of Big Trees' about 1914

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Tourists at Mariposa Grove of Big Trees
about 1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

T. W. Stewart (American, active early 20th century) 'Members of the Just Government League of Maryland' 1914

 

T. W. Stewart (American, active early 20th century)
Members of the Just Government League of Maryland
1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

Established in 1909, the Just Government League became the largest organisation in Maryland advocating for women’s suffrage. Local chapters were founded throughout the state including in Westminster in 1913. By 1915 statewide membership numbered 17,000. The League’s campaign centred on public education to affirm the social benefits of votes for women. After Congress passed the 19th Amendment in 1920, the League turned its focus to women’s civil and political rights, and won the right for women to hold public office in Maryland in 1922.

 

The Just Government League formed in 1909. Its leaders were Edith Houghton Hooker, a former Hopkins medical student, and her husband Donald Hooker, a Hopkins physician. They were aided by two close friends: Mabel Glover Mall, Edith’s classmate, and Florence Sabin, who completed her MD at Hopkins and became its first female senior faculty member.

Starting in 1910, suffragists began using cross-country hikes to “reach all sorts and conditions of people” outside of urban centres. The women of Maryland’s Just Government League hiked from Baltimore through Garrett County, about seventy miles, holding public meetings along the way.

Edith Hooker admired the direct-action approach of Alice Paul, and helped Paul to split the more radical National Woman’s Party from the moderate NAWSA. Though the Just Government League joined the National Woman’s Party in 1917, it remained more focused on diplomatic than on militant efforts, conducting intensive lobbying in Annapolis and Washington.

Despite their interest in reaching “all sorts” of people, the League, like many suffrage organisations, was predominantly white, Protestant, highly-educated, and financially well-off. In the early 20th century, in addition to its large African American population, Baltimore saw an influx of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe who were Jewish and Catholic. Anti-immigrant sentiment was widespread and supported by the eugenic science of the period, to which many of Baltimore’s elite subscribed.

Anonymous text. “The Just Government League,” on the John Hopkins Library website Nd [Online] Cited 03/05/2022

 

Unidentified artist (American) Rose Studio (publisher) 'Railroad worker, Portland, Oregon' 1911 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Rose Studio (publisher)
Railroad worker, Portland, Oregon
1911 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Butcher and his Son' about 1914

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Butcher and his Son
about 1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Woman with Flowers' about 1914

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Woman with Flowers
about 1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Roller skater, Frankfort, Michigan' about 1914

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Roller skater, Frankfort, Michigan
about 1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

Featuring more than 300 works drawn from the Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive, a promised gift to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation takes an in-depth look at the innovative early-20th-century medium that enabled both professional and amateur photographers to capture everyday life in U.S. towns big and small. The photographs on these cards, which range from the dramatic and tragic to the inexplicable and funny, show this moment in history with striking immediacy – revealing truths about a country experiencing rapid industrialisation, mass immigration, technological change, and social and economic uncertainty. The exhibition is on view from March 17 through July 25, 2022 in the Herb Ritts Gallery and Clementine Brown Gallery. It is accompanied by an illustrated volume, Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation, produced by MFA Publications and authored by Lynda Klich and Benjamin Weiss, the MFA’s Leonard A. Lauder Senior Curator of Visual Culture, with contributions by Eric Moskowitz, Jeff. L Rosenheim, Annie Rudd, Christopher B. Steiner and Anna Tome.

In 1903, at the height of the worldwide craze for postcards, the Eastman Kodak Company unveiled a new product: the postcard camera. The device exposed a postcard-sized negative that could print directly onto a blank card, capturing scenes in extraordinary detail. Portable and easy to use, the camera heralded a new way of making postcards. Suddenly almost anyone could make photo postcards, as a hobby or as a business. Other companies quickly followed in Kodak’s wake, and soon photographic postcards joined the billions upon billions of printed cards in circulation before World War II.

“Real photo postcards bring us back to the exciting early years of photojournalism. The new flexibility and mobility of this medium created citizen photographers who captured life on the ground around them. These cards particularly excite me because we learn from them both the grand historical narrative and the smaller events that made up the daily lives of those who participated in that history,” said Leonard A. Lauder.

Real photo postcards, as such photographic cards are called today, caught aspects of the world that their commercially published cousins never could. Big postcard publishers tended to play it safe, issuing sets that showed celebrated sites from towns across the U.S. like town halls, historic sites and post offices. But the photographers who walked the streets or set up temporary studios worked fast and cheap. They could take a risk on a scene that might appeal to only a few, or record a moment that would otherwise have been lost to posterity. As the Victorian formality of earlier photography fell away, shop interiors, constructions sites, train wrecks and people being silly all began to appear on real photo postcards – capturing everyday life on film like never before.

Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation is organised thematically, with groupings of postcards centred around various events and activities that captivated both professional and amateur photographers at the time – from public festivities and organised sports to people at work in professions ranging from telephone operators to farmers. Many of the cards convey local spot news – fires, floods, explosions, political rallies, strikes and parades – presaging the digital journalism of our own age. The exhibition also features a wide array of postcard portraits, which were inexpensive and affordable to people from most walks of life. Popular categories of postcard portraits included workers posing with the tools of their trade or people posing with studio props or backgrounds, sitting on paper moons or “flying” in a fake airplane or hot-air balloon. Collectively, these portraits offer a rare view of a modern America in the making – one constructed by the people, for themselves.

“The postcards in this exhibition are precious, intricately detailed windows into life a century ago. In exploring the Lauder Archive, we selected and arranged the cards with the hope of conveying a measure of the intimacy and serendipity that might come from walking the streets of a town of that time,” said Weiss.

“Some of those cards reveal their history in great detail, while others are resolutely mute about who made them and why. That is one of the pleasures of working with postcards, and one of the things that makes the Lauder Archive such an inexhaustible mine of stories and mysteries,” added Klich.

Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation is the third exhibition at the MFA drawn from the Leonard A. Lauder Archive, following The Art of Influence: Propaganda Postcards from the Era of World Wars (2018-2019) and The Postcard Age: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection (2012-2013).

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Circus at Bi-County Fair, Union City, Indiana' 1917 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Circus at Bi-County Fair, Union City, Indiana
1917 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

An image taken at Union City Bi-County Fair in Indiana around 1917. The book says of the photo postcard industry: ‘Just as postcard studios could flourish in the quieter corners of the country, away from the commercial photo studios of the big cities, so could postcard photographers find success close to home. They just needed to make sure that their products were tailored to local tastes: local celebrities, local sports teams, champion livestock and vegetables, the midway at the county fairgrounds, or the local quack–medicine salesmen’.

Sarah Holt and Sadie Whitelocks. “Step back in time to yesteryear America: Fascinating new book of vintage photo postcards reveals life in the U.S during the early 20th century, from gun gangs to Grand Canyon visits,” on the Mailonline website 14 April 2022 [Online] Cited 02/05/2022

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Man and Woman in an Automobile' 1918

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Man and Woman in an Automobile
1918
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Swimmers at Saltair, Utah Levene' 1918

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Swimmers at Saltair, Utah Levene
1918
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

The Northern Photo Company (publisher) 'Advanced Room, Indian School, Wittenberg Wisconsin' 1919

 

Unidentified artist (American)
The Northern Photo Company (publisher)
Advanced Room, Indian School, Wittenberg Wisconsin
1919
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) Harbaugh Photo (publisher) 'Paper Moon Portrait of a Barber' about 1914

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Harbaugh Photo (publisher)
Paper Moon Portrait of a Barber
about 1914
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Paper Moon Portrait of a Young Woman' 1917 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Paper Moon Portrait of a Young Woman
1917 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Amish market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania' 1925

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Amish market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
1925
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Assembly line, Ford Motor Company factory, Dearborn, Michigan' mid-1920s

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Assembly line, Ford Motor Company factory, Dearborn, Michigan
mid-1920s
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

An assembly line of the Ford Motor Company factory photographed in the mid-1920s in Dearborn, Michigan. The authors write: ‘The photographs on these cards capture the United States in the early twentieth century with a striking immediacy. It was a time of rapid industrialisation, mass immigration, technological change, and social uncertainty – in other words, a time much like our own’.

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Alma Mae Bradley' 1926 or later

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Alma Mae Bradley
1926 or later
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

Sometime in the early 1930s, a young Black woman posed for a portrait in what appears to be a makeshift photo studio, set up perhaps on the grounds of her high school campus (144). Affixed to the wall behind her is a cloth banner, its creases still visible from where it had been neatly pressed prior to being unfolded as a backdrop. Although the felt letters on the banner are mostly cut off from the image’s frame, there are enough letters visible to make out that the photograph was taken at Downingtown Industrial and Agricultural School, a vocational high school established in 1905 to educate Black children in and around Chester County, Pennsylvania. The young woman is dressed in the uniform of her school team, and she is wearing a pair of Ball-Band high-top canvas rubber-soled sneakers, the latest innovation in competitive athletic footwear. She stands with one foot in front of the other, her left knee slightly bent, and she appears ready to throw a basketball while looking off somewhere into the distance. Although the photograph represents a unique likeness or portrait of this individual, the image closely follows the stylistic conventions of this period – photographing athletes in the artificial surroundings of a photo studio while presenting them as if caught in a frozen moment of action during a game or sporting event. On the back of the postcard is written: “When you look at this, think of me. Keep this to remember me by. Love Alma Mae Bradley.” Beyond the small clues presented in the brief handwritten text and in the image, virtually nothing else is known about this young woman – who she was, whom she was writing to, and how exactly she would want to be remembered.1 Like so many other portraits on photo postcards produced in the early twentieth century, this one has been separated from its original context and from its intended recipient. What had started as a personal memento from a life being lived, is now a public document detached from individual experience and meaning.

Christopher B. Steiner. “When You Look at This, Think of Me,” in Lynda Klich and Benjamin Weiss (eds.,). Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation. MFA Publications, 2022, p. 138.

 

Mitchell (American, photographer) 'Birger and his gang' October 1926

 

Mitchell (American, photographer)
Birger and his gang
October 1926
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

This incredible photograph was taken in Harrisburg, Illinois, by local resident and photographer Alvis Michael Mitchell and shows notorious gangster Charlie Birger and his gun-toting gang. Birger, reveals the book, was ‘as notorious as any gangster anywhere from 1926 to 1928’, with one newspaper story at the time describing Al Capone as ‘the Charlie Birger of Cook County’. Birger’s gang, we learn in the tome, ‘controlled bootlegging and “adult entertainment” across Southern Illinois’, with Birger eventually convicted of orchestrating the murder of a small-town mayor and becoming the last man publicly hanged in Illinois on April 19, 1928. He can be seen in the picture sitting sidesaddle on the porch rail at back-right in a bulletproof vest, the book reveals. Adding further insight, it says: ‘The inscription on [this] card, “Birger and His Gang”, vaults the viewer from quietly eyeing a band of outlaws to considering what photographer Mitchell might have felt as he steadied his camera before all that brandished firepower… though Mitchell suggested to a reporter years later that he had arranged the photo, family lore has it the other way: Birger’s gang enlisted the reluctant photographer, knocking on the door and spooking his wife.’ Despite the 1927 notation on the card, the book’s authors say the date ‘can be narrowed down to within a few days in October 1926, based on the movements, arrests, and deaths of the pictured gang members’.

Sarah Holt and Sadie Whitelocks. “Step back in time to yesteryear America: Fascinating new book of vintage photo postcards reveals life in the U.S during the early 20th century, from gun gangs to Grand Canyon visits,” on the Mailonline website 14 April 2022 [Online] Cited 02/05/2022

 

Unidentified artist (American) 'Two elegantly dressed women at the Grand Canyon' January 14, 1929

 

Unidentified artist (American)
Two elegantly dressed women at the Grand Canyon
January 14, 1929
Gelatin silver print on card stock
Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive

 

 

This photo, taken on January 14, 1929, shows two elegantly dressed women at the Grand Canyon. The book says of the shot: ‘The women stand before what is today a hackneyed tourist view… but what was then remarkable, a novelty. Their heeled shoes and clutches indicate that they did not rough it to get there, but were neatly dropped, likely by a driver, in a predetermined location designed to ensure that they could procure a photograph that would communicate, in effect, that they had “been there, done that”‘.

Sarah Holt and Sadie Whitelocks. “Step back in time to yesteryear America: Fascinating new book of vintage photo postcards reveals life in the U.S during the early 20th century, from gun gangs to Grand Canyon visits,” on the Mailonline website 14 April 2022 [Online] Cited 02/05/2022

 

'Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation' book cover

 

Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation book cover. The cover picture shows tourists at the Wawona Tree in California’s Yosemite National Park in 1908.

 

 

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22
May
22

Exhibition: ‘André Kertész: Postcards from Paris’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 18th February – 29th May, 2022

Curator: Elizabeth Siegel, curator of photography and media at the Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Grands Boulevards' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Grands Boulevards
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper, 1926-1935
Image: 3 1/16 × 45/16″ (7.8 × 10.9cm)
Sheet: 3 5/16 × 5 1/16″ (8.4 × 12.9cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

The next two postings focus on the creation and distribution of carte postale – in this posting fine art photographs taken by an artist experimenting with photography at the beginning of his career, intimate images cropped and printed for carte postale (postcard) photographic paper and distributed in very limited numbers to friends and family; and in the next posting social documentary photographs taken by mainly anonymous artists, printed in larger numbers by publishers for public consumption.

Arriving in Paris in 1925 Kertész used to his camera to document his feelings towards his new city, a city that was to become his spiritual home no matter where he lived. I have the same feeling towards Paris. One day I will live there, wander the streets and continue to take photographs of this beloved city. “Kertész used his camera to document his explorations of Paris in his first days there. During long walks, he photographed activity along the Seine, overlooked scenes behind buildings, and the tents at local fairgrounds. With few expectations to satisfy beyond his own ambition, the artist was free to explore and record, refining his eye as he composed his images in the camera and as he reviewed and printed them as cartes postales.”

In this posting there are only four external scenes of Paris including two crisp Modernist photographs of the same homeless man with street posters; an enigmatic image of the Eiffel Tower; and the highlight for me, an atmospheric high angle view of a fairground. Other highlights in the posting include Kertész’s vibrant, expressive Satiric Dancer (1927, below); his modern, simple and unpretentious Fork (1928, below) and Mondrian’s Pipe and Glasses (1926, below) so clearly and crisply observed; and the most famous of all his photographs, the serene and beautiful Chez Mondrian (1926, below) in which Kertész said “Everything was there before me.” It only required his awareness and recognition of the scene to tell the story. My particular favourite is Kertész’s seeming homage to Eugène Atget, Latin Quarter (Étienne Beöthy’s Cousin) (1927, below) … an Atget interior and perspicacious portrait combined.

The key is to see things clearly and intelligently in order to express the story you want to tell with feeling and empathy. As Kertész tells it, to have enough technique to then forget about it. “I believe you should be a perfect technician in order to express yourself as you wish and then you can forget about the technique.” He insightfully observes, “You have beautiful calligraphy, but it’s up to you what you write with it.”

It’s about the story you tell and not (just) about technique and an empty beauty (as with much contemporary photography).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the High Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In 1925, photographer André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) arrived in Paris with little more than a camera and meager savings. Over the next three years, the young artist carved out a photographic practice that allowed him to move among the realms of amateur and professional, photojournalist and avant-garde artist, diarist and documentarian. By the end of 1928, he had achieved widespread recognition, emerging as a major figure in modern art photography alongside such figures as Man Ray and Berenice Abbott. During this three-year period, he chose to print most of his photographs on carte postale, or postcard paper. Although this choice may have initially been born of economy and convenience, he turned the popular format toward artistic ends, rigorously composing new images in the darkroom and making a new kind of photographic object.

Postcards from Paris is the first exhibition to bring together Kertész’s rare carte postale prints. These now-iconic works offer new insight into his early, experimental years and reveal the importance of Paris as a vibrant meeting ground for international artists, who drew inspiration from each other to create new, modern ways of seeing and representing the world.

 

 

Kertész was an expert printer and a precise technician, even as he strove for spontaneity and naturalism in his imagery and, with the exception of cropping, was apparently averse to manipulations such as experimental darkroom techniques and photomontage.8 He was opinionated on the subject of how his photographs should be made: in 1923, still struggling for recognition, he refused to reprint in bromoil an image he had submitted to a competition, which cost him the silver medal. He later said of the episode, “I have always known that photography can only be photography.”9 In a letter from 1926 Jenö complimented his work, calling it technically impeccable, but Kertész also believed that technical perfection by itself “overshines the boot,” explaining, “You have beautiful calligraphy, but it’s up to you what you write with it.”10 In an interview near the end of his life Kertész said, “Technique is only the minimum in photography. It’s what one must start with. I believe you should be a perfect technician in order to express yourself as you wish and then you can forget about the technique.”11

.
Nancy Reinhold. “Exhibition in a Pocket: The Cartes Postales of André Kertész,” in Mitra Abbaspour, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg (eds.,). Object: Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909-1949. An Online Project of The Museum of Modern Art. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2014.

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Self-Portrait' July 1927

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Self-Portrait
July 1927
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Estate of André Kertész, courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

 

Kertész sent this print to his brother Jenő with the inscription, “To my younger brother, Bandi.” (“Bandi” was André’s family nickname.) Although the photographer frequently mailed his carte postale prints to family and friends, he sent them in envelopes rather than affixing a stamp to the back and posting them directly in the manner the manufacturers intended. Moreover, rather than signing them on the back, as one would a postcard, he almost always signed them on the front, like a finished work of art. The paper’s utilitarian format nonetheless may have inspired him to circulate his pictures through the mail and use them to communicate with his family.

 

A Portrait of the Artist

With this self-portrait, André Kertész declared himself a cosmopolitan artist. He appears surrounded by objects that refer to both his birthplace of Hungary and his new home in Paris.

Kertész printed this image on postcard paper and sent it home to his family. Rather than writing on the back of the card and adding postage, he mailed it safely in an envelope as proof that he was surviving and even thriving in his new city and still resolved to become a photographer.

 

From Immigrant to Insider

Kertész arrived in Paris in fall 1925 with little other than his cameras and some savings. His first years were filled with experimentation as he learned from a community of other expatriate artists. Kertész hung a portrait of his mother on the door to his small apartment [see below]. Made at a professional studio in Budapest, it was printed on carte postale paper, the same kind he used to make his self-portrait and most of his work in Paris.

 

A Memento of Home

Kertész arranged himself at a table covered by a cloth from Hungary embroidered by his mother with the initials K.A., for Kertész Andor, his name before he adopted the French “André.”

Kertész’s apartment also featured a life mask, a plaster cast of his own face, which he kept as he moved from Hungary to Paris and later to New York. It appears as an alter ego – a strategy of doubling that he used often in his photographs.

Kertész presented himself as cultured and educated, with an overflowing bookshelf behind him and an open book before him on the table. Although he spoke three languages, Kertész later said, “My English is bad. My French is bad. Photography is my only language.”

Hanging prominently above the artist’s head is his take on an iconic Parisian landmark, the Eiffel Tower [see below]. One of the earliest photographs he made in Paris, this image – enlarged for the wall – symbolises his new home.

 

Romer Erzs Studio (Hungarian) Budapest. 'Kertesz's Mother' Before 1925

 

Romer Erzs Studio (Hungarian) Budapest
Kertesz’s Mother
Before 1925

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Eiffel Tower' 1925

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Eiffel Tower
1925
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Family Holdings of Nicholas and Susan Pritzker

 

 

Among Kertész’s earliest Parisian photographs is this view of the Eiffel Tower [see on the wall behind the artist in his Self-Portrait 1927, above]. Taken from a window in the apartment of a Hungarian architect, the moody image is less a typical tourist snapshot than a specific vision of the landmark captured from the perspective of a local. In a self-portrait, an enlarged version of this work can be seen hanging prominently on the wall of the photographer’s apartment – a decorating choice emblematic, perhaps, of his immersion in his adopted city. Kertész used his camera to document his explorations of Paris in his first days there. During long walks, he photographed activity along the Seine, overlooked scenes behind buildings, and the tents at local fairgrounds. With few expectations to satisfy beyond his own ambition, the artist was free to explore and record, refining his eye as he composed his images in the camera and as he reviewed and printed them as cartes postales. He maintained decades after he left the city, “Paris became my home and it still is. Paris accepted me as an artist just as it accepted any artist, painter, or sculptor. I was understood there.”

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'József Csáky' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
József Csáky
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Image: 10.9 × 7.2cm
Card: 12.9 × 7.5cm

 

 

Joseph Csaky (also written Josef Csàky, Csáky József, József Csáky and Joseph Alexandre Czaky) (18 March 1888 – 1 May 1971) was a Hungarian avant-garde artist, sculptor, and graphic artist, best known for his early participation in the Cubist movement as a sculptor. Csaky was one of the first sculptors in Paris to apply the principles of pictorial Cubism to his art. A pioneer of modern sculpture, Csaky is among the most important sculptors of the early 20th century. He was an active member of the Section d’Or group between 1911 and 1914, and closely associated with Crystal Cubism, Purism, De Stijl, Abstract art, and Art Deco throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

Csaky fought alongside French soldiers during World War I and in 1922 became a naturalised French citizen. He was a founding member of l’Union des Artistes modernes (UAM) in 1929. During World War II, Csaky joined forces with the French underground movement (la Résistance) in Valençay. In the late 1920s, he collaborated with some other artists in designing furniture and other decorative pieces, including elements of the Studio House of the fashion designer Jacques Doucet.

After 1928, Csaky moved away from Cubism into a more figurative or representational style for nearly thirty years. He exhibited internationally across Europe, but some of his pioneering artistic innovation was forgotten. His work today is primarily held by French and Hungarian institutions, as well as museums, galleries and private collections both in France and abroad. …

 

Legacy

Joseph Csaky contributed substantially to the development of modern sculpture, both as a pioneer in applying Cubism to sculpture, and as a leading figure in nonrepresentational art of the 1920s.

After fighting alongside the French underground movement against the Nazis during World War II, Csaky faced many difficulties: health issues, family problems and a lack of work-related commissions. Unlike many of his friends, whose names became widely known, Csaky was appreciated by fewer people (but they notably included art collectors, art historians and museum curators).

“Today, however,” writes Edith Balas, “in a postmodernist atmosphere, those aspects of his art that made Csáky unacceptable to the more advanced modernists are readily accepted as valid and interesting. The time has come to give Csáky his rightful place in the ranks of the avant-garde, based on an analysis of his artistic innovations and accomplishments.”

Text and more information on the artist can be found on his Wikipedia entry

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Pierre Mac Orlan' 1927

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Pierre Mac Orlan
1927
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Unmarked recto; inscribed verso, on paper, along left edge, sideways, in graphite: “6” [one arrow extending from the left and the right side, running along the left edge]”; verso, upper centre, sideways, in graphite: “Pierre McOxlan / 1927.”; verso, lower centre, sideways, in graphite: “142”; printed verso, along right edge, sideways, in black ink: “CARTE POSTALE / Correspondance Adresse”
Image: 10.8 × 7.8cm
Card: 11.1 × 18.1cm

 

 

Pierre Mac Orlan, sometimes written MacOrlan (born Pierre Dumarchey, February 26, 1882 – June 27, 1970), was a French novelist and songwriter. His novel Quai des Brumes was the source for Marcel Carné’s 1938 film of the same name, starring Jean Gabin. He was also a prolific writer of chansons, many of which were recorded and popularized by French singers such as Juliette Gréco, Monique Morelli, Catherine Sauvage, and Germaine Montero.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

In 1925, photographer André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) arrived in Paris with little more than a camera and meager savings. Over the next three years, the young artist carved out a photographic practice that allowed him to move among the realms of amateur and professional, photojournalist and avant-garde artist, diarist and documentarian. This spring, the High Museum of Art will present “André Kertész: Postcards from Paris” (Feb. 18-May 29, 2022), the first exhibition to focus exclusively on his rare cartes postales, precise prints on inexpensive yet lush postcard paper.

Organised by the Art Institute of Chicago, “Postcards from Paris” brings together more than 100 of these prints from collections across Europe and North America and offers insight into Kertész’s early experimental years, during which he produced some of his now-iconic images and charted a new path for modern photography. The exhibition will also reveal the importance of Paris as a vibrant meeting ground for international artists, who drew inspiration from each other to create fresh ways of seeing and representing the world.

“We are delighted for the opportunity to share these rare prints by one of the most intriguing and groundbreaking photographers of the 20th century,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director.

“Kertész was one of the most consequential photographers of the 20th century, and this exhibition focuses on his most innovative and prolific period,” said Gregory Harris, the High’s Donald and Marilyn Keough Family curator of photography. “He was a pioneer who mastered intimate portraiture, dynamic street photography and precise interior studies, moving effortlessly between his personal and commercial work. These distinctive carte postale prints are some of the finest examples of his iconic early photographs.”

Kertész moved to Paris due to the limited opportunities in his native Hungary, and by the end of 1928, he was contributing regularly to magazines and exhibiting his work internationally alongside well-known artists such as Man Ray and Berenice Abbott. The three years between his arrival in Paris and his emergence as a major figure in modern art photography marked a period of dedicated experimentation and exploration for Kertész. During that time, he produced most of his prints on carte postale paper, turning this popular format toward artistic ends, rigorously composing images in the darkroom and making a new kind of photographic object. “Postcards from Paris” pays careful attention to the works as both images and objects, emphasising their experimental composition and daringly cropped formats.

The exhibition includes vintage prints of images that would come to define Kertész’s career, including “Chez Mondrian” (1926), an exquisitely composed scene of Piet Mondrian’s studio emphasising the painter’s restrained geometry; “Satiric Dancer” (1927), uniting photography with dance and sculpture by fellow Hungarians in Paris; and “Fork” (1928), declaring that photography could transform even the humblest of objects into art.

“Postcards from Paris” is curated by Elizabeth Siegel, curator of photography and media at the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition will be presented in the Lucinda Weil Bunnen Photography Galleries on the Lower Level of the High’s Wieland Pavilion.

 

Exhibition Catalogue

The exhibition catalogue unites all of André Kertész’s known carte postale prints, including portraits, views of Paris, careful studio scenes and exquisitely simple still lifes. Essays shed new light on the artist’s most acclaimed images; themes of materiality, exile and communication; his illustrious and bohemian social circle; and the changing identity of art photography. The book’s design reflects the spirit of 1920s Paris while underscoring the modernity of the catalogue’s more than 250 illustrated works. It was selected as Photography Catalogue of the Year for Aperture’s 2021 PhotoBook Awards Shortlist.

“André Kertész: Postcards from Paris” is organised by the Art Institute of Chicago.

Press release from the High Museum of Art

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Quartet' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Quartet
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Nicholas and Susan Pritzker

 

 

Kertész often radically revised the images he captured with the camera. He produced all of his cartes postales as contact prints by placing the negative in contact with the postcard paper during exposure instead of using an enlarger. He made this photograph of Feri Roth’s string quartet by masking the negative (blocking out certain sections with tape) before printing to highlight just a small section of a publicity picture the group had commissioned. By cropping out the players’ heads to concentrate on their angled bows and the lines of the music stand, Kertész abstracted the idea of a quartet to hands, instruments, and a white rectangle of sheet music. He left a dramatic ratio of the postcard paper blank to emphasise the image’s unusual placement at the top of the support. He then trimmed the card to custom proportions, as he did with nearly all his cartes postales, underlining the interplay between image and paper as an indispensable component of the artwork. Kertész saw these bold interventions as a way to distinguish his art from his budding commercial career: the whole image was for them, he later said in an interview; the cropped print was for him.

 

A Close Look at André Kertész’s Quartet

André Kertész’s image of the Feri Roth string quartet is tiny, but it packs a wallop.

Four musicians gather to play, with four sets of hands holding their bows at different angles. Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) zooms in to concentrate on the lines of the bows and the music stand, resulting in a dynamic composition that abstracts the idea of a quartet to hands, instruments, and a white rectangle of sheet music.

Printed on intimately scaled carte postale (postcard) paper, this print could have been held in the hand, sent home to his family in Hungary, or passed along to a widening circle of international artist friends at the café tables Kertész frequented in 1920s Paris. In its subject and in its form, Quartet represents a key moment in the photographer’s career as he carved out a new, modern photographic practice in his adopted city.

The photograph began as a commission for his friend Feri Roth, a Hungarian musician whose renowned string quartet toured in Europe throughout the 1920s and was in need of publicity photographs. Kertész stood on a chair or stool to get an elevated position (a favourite technique) and made a wide picture that showed the complete scene.

The camera Kertész typically used produced negatives about the same size as the carte postale paper, which allowed for easy contact printing – meaning he placed the negative in direct contact with the postcard paper during exposure instead of using an enlarger. For this image, however, Kertész employed a larger camera, which allowed him to make some dramatic changes in the darkroom as he made his contact print: he cropped out all of the players’ heads and tilted the image slightly to orient it around the geometrical forms of the music stand. The photographer saw these interventions in the negative as a way to distinguish his art from his budding commercial career – the whole image was for them, he later said in an interview; the cropped print was for him.

Kertész’s approach in this print was typical of his work in his early years in Paris. He often made creative revisions in the darkroom, where he could produce a more refined composition by cropping out selected portions of the image. As was his habit with nearly all his carte postale prints, he precisely trimmed the card to custom proportions and carefully signed it on the front. Here, however, Kertész took an even more dramatic step in the print: he left most of the expanse of the postcard paper as empty white space, further emphasising the image’s cropping and its unusual placement at the top of the card. All of these actions elevated these humble materials of mass culture and underlined the interplay between image and paper as an indispensable component of the artwork.

Kertész also adapted this method of making a new composition out of an older one to his camera technique. Take, for example, his portrait of his friend Paul Arma (Imre Weisshaus), a Hungarian composer and pianist. Kertész first made a more traditional seated portrait showing the upper half of the musician’s body, his hands against the chair back holding his distinctive glasses. In another picture from the same sitting, he zoomed in on that gesture in an abstracted portrayal. Here, selected elements stand in for the whole subject, distilling Arma’s persona down to his instrument-playing hands and his particular vision.

Beyond demonstrating Kertész’s experimental approach, Quartet also tracks his expanding network, as he began connecting first to Hungarian – and soon to international – artists, musicians, dancers, and writers. He had built a community of creatives in his native Budapest, and in Paris he linked up with a group of Hungarian expatriates that included painter Lajos Tihanyi, sculptors Joseph (József) Csáky and Étienne (István) Beöthy, experimental puppeteer Géza Blattner, and dancer Magda Förstner, among others – all of whom he made carte postale portaits of. As his French improved and his circle widened, Kertész got to know and came to photograph French writer Pierre Mac Orlan, the poets Tristan Tzara (French-Romanian) and Paul Dermée (Belgian), Swedish painter Gundvor Berg, Spanish ceramicist Josep Llorens Artigas, Russian painter and gallery owner Evsa Model, and especially the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, whose spare painting and studio left a deep impression on the photographer.

Quartet is one of over one hundred rare carte postale prints brought together for the first time in the exhibition André Kertész: Postcards from Paris. This exhibition takes a focused look at a three-year period in the artist’s career – his first years in Paris – when he explored new compositions and techniques and printed most of his work in the intimate carte postale format. As a reminder of Kertész’s daring experimentalism in photography, the importance of understanding his works as objects as much as images, and proof of his widening network and expansive artistic influences, this small photograph has a big impact.

~ Elizabeth Siegel, curator, Photography and Media

Elizabeth Siegel, “A Close Look at André Kertész’s Quartet,” on the Art Institute of Chicago website October 26, 2021 [Online] Cited 17/03/2022

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paul Arma' 1928

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paul Arma
1928
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Image: 7.9 × 7.9cm
Card: 13.5 × 8.1cm

 

 

Paul Arma (Hungarian: Arma Pál, aka Amrusz Pál; né Weisshaus Imre; 22 November 1905, in Budapest – 28 November 1987, in Paris) was a Hungarian-French pianist, composer, and ethnomusicologist.

Arma studied under Béla Bartók from 1920 to 1924 at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, after which time he toured Europe and America giving concerts and piano recitals. Béla Bartók influenced Arma in his love for folksong and collection. He left Hungary in 1930, eventually settling in Paris in 1933, where he became the piano soloist with Radio Paris. His music is generally characterised by modernist tendencies, although his varied output includes folk song arrangements, film music, popular and patriotic songs, in addition to solo, chamber, orchestral and electronic music.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Paul Arma is a crucial figure in the history of French Resistance music, both because of the songs he composed and because of his tireless efforts to preserve the enormous body of music created during the war. Arma saw the songs of the Resistance not simply as sources of hope and acts of wartime courage, but also as important artifacts to be saved as symbols of France’s national spirit. Born in 1905 as Imre Weisshaus, the Hungarian pianist, conductor, and composer Paul Arma studied with Bartok at the Academy of Franz-Liszt in Budapest. He worked as a conductor of orchestras and choirs in Berlin and Lepizig until 1933, before being arrested by the SS in Leipzig for spying against the Germans and for his connections with the intellectual and artistic avant-garde. Though deemed not enough of a threat to be imprisoned, Arma was subject to a mock execution by the SS prior to being released. He subsequently fled to Paris, where he worked until 1939 as a pianist for Radio-Paris and wrote songs supporting the Republican Spanish for the International Brigades such as ‘Madrid’ and ‘No pasaran’ (Do not pass). After the arrival of the Nazis, Arma composed ‘Les chants du silence’ (Songs of silence) on texts of Vercors, Eluard, Romain Rolland and Paul Claudel among others, writing: ‘During a period when, in France, freedom had to take place in prescribed silence … I sang silence in order to blackmail life.’ During the war, Arma secretly collected over 1,800 French songs, transcribing the melodies together with his wife. After the war, he sent out an appeal on radio and in national newspapers in France, Spain, Hungary, Italy, the Ukraine, Armenia and Bulgaria, seeking additional songs for his collection. The response was enormous: listeners sent in over 1,300 songs. From October to December 1945, Arma broadcast a number of these songs on the radio as part of a series entitled La Résistance qui chante (Resistance singing). …

From 1954-1984 Arma conducted research into electromagnetic music, as well as making 81 sculptures out of wood and metal on the theme of music, called Musiques sculptées (sculpted music). In the 1980s he became a French national, was awarded the S.A.C.E.M. Enesco prize, and was made a Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, an Officer of the National Order of Arts and Letters, and an Officer of the National Order of Merit. He died in 1987 and his wife donated his music collection to the Musée Régionale de la Résistance et de la Déportation de Thionville (Regional Museum of the Resistance and Deportation at Thionville).

Daisy Fancourt. “Paul Arma,” on the Music and the Holocaust website Nd [Online] Cited 11/04/2021

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paul Arma's Hands, Paris' 1928

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paul Arma’s Hands, Paris
1928
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Image: 24 × 18 cm
Mount: 36.8 × 27.3cm
Art Institute of Chicago
Julien Levy Collection, Special Photography Acquisition Fund

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Lajos Tihanyi' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Lajos Tihanyi
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Image: 10.9 × 7.9cm
Card: 11.2 × 8.1cm

 

 

Lajos Tihanyi (29 October 1885 – 11 June 1938) was a Hungarian painter and lithographer who achieved international renown working outside his country, primarily in Paris, France. After emigrating in 1919, he never returned to Hungary, even on a visit.

Born in Budapest, as a young man, Tihanyi was part of the “Neoimpressionists” or “Neos”, and later the influential avant-garde group of painters called The Eight (A Nyolcak), founded in 1909 in Hungary. They were experimenting with styles of Post-Impressionism and rejected the naturalism of the Nagybánya artists’ colony. Their work is considered highly influential in establishing modernism in Hungary to 1918, when the First World War and revolution overtook the country.

After the fall of the Hungarian Democratic Republic in 1919, Tihanyi left and lived briefly in Vienna. He moved on to Berlin for a few years, where he connected with many Hungarian émigré writers and artists, such as Gyorgy Bölöni and the future Brassaï. By 1924 Tihanyi and numerous other artists moved to Paris, where he stayed for the remainder of his life.

In Paris, Tihanyi gradually shifted to more abstract styles in his work. His paintings and lithographs are held by the Hungarian National Gallery, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York City, among other institutions, and by private collectors. With the centenary of The Eight’s first exhibition, Tihanyi has been featured in five exhibitions since 2004, including ones held in 2010 and 2012 in Hungary and Austria, and another in 2012 devoted to a solo retrospective of his work.

Text and more information on the artist can be found on his Wikipedia entry

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Satiric Dancer' 1927

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Satiric Dancer
1927
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Family Holdings of Nicholas and Susan Pritzker

 

 

“Do something with the spirit of the studio corner,” Kertész told his subject before he took this picture. He captured Hungarian dancer Magda Förstner in sculptor Etienne Beöthy’s studio, her contorted pose playfully mimicking the angular form of the work next to the sofa, Beöthy’s Direct Action. “She just made a movement. I took only two photographs. No need to shoot a hundred rolls like people do today. People in motion are wonderful to photograph. It means catching the right moment – the moment when something changes into something else.” Although Satiric Dancer, as it eventually came to be known, was not published or exhibited much during Kertész’s Paris years, it later became one of the artist’s most recognised images. Linking dance, sculpture, and photography, it evokes the ethos of sexual freedom and experimental self-expression that some women embraced in the 1920s as they shed patriarchal constraints, an ethos in which Kertész was steeped during his early years in Paris. It also reflects Förstner’s creative ends: she upends the traditional relationship between male artist and female model, such that Beöthy’s sculpture serves as inspiration for her own artistry.

 

Etienne Beöthy (Hungarian, 1897-1961)

István (Etienne) Beöthy (1897 – 27 November 1961) was a Hungarian sculptor and architect who mainly lived and worked in France.

After the First World War, in which he served, Beöthy began to study architecture in Budapest. There he was in contact with the avant-garde poet and painter Lajos Kassák, who familiarized him with the tenets of constructivism and suprematism. His earliest work as an architectural draftsman, from 1919, displayed constructivist tendencies. In that same year he would write the manifesto “Section d’Or” (The Golden Section), which did not appear in Paris until 1939.

From 1920 to 1924, Beöthy studied under János Vaszary at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. He travelled on a grant to Vienna, from where he undertook other travels to western Europe, until in 1925 he settled in Paris. Beöthy found a place in the Parisian art scene and took part in the exhibit of the Salon des Indépendants. In 1927 he married Anna Steiner, and in 1928 he had his first one-man show in the Galerie Sacre-Printemps.

In 1931, Beöthy co-founded the group Abstraction-Creation with sculptor Georges Vantongerloo and painter Auguste Herbin, and was its vice-president for a time. From 1931 to 1939, he had an exclusive contract with Leonce Rosenberg’s Galerie de l’Effort Moderne, and in 1938 he organised an exhibit in Budapest, which was the first exposure of his nonfigurative art to the public in Hungary. Like Herbin, he later explored parallels to other forms of self-expression, particularly music. His sculptures after this point develop along the lines of harmonies, which interact with each other like musical notes.

During World War II Beöthy designed fliers for the French Resistance. In 1946, he became a founding member of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, and the Galerie Maeght in Paris showed a retrospective of his work. In 1951, he became a founding member of another group, “Espace”, and founded the journal “Formes et Vie”, with Fernand Léger and Le Corbusier. For a short time between 1952 and 1953, he gave lectures on colour and proportion to architecture classes at the École des Beaux-Arts, and in his subsequent years he worked together with architects and was otherwise part of the planning for the expansion of Le Havre.

Beöthy died in Paris on 27 November 1961.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Magda Förstner' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Magda Förstner (Standing in the doorway of Etienne Béothy’s studio)
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper, c. 1929
Image: 3 9/16 × 1 1/2″ (9.1 × 3.8cm)
Sheet: 5 1/8 × 1 11/16″ (13 × 4.3cm)
Mount: 14 1/2 × 10 11/16″ (36.8 × 27.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

In the year he met Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), André Kertész became acquainted with an aspiring [Hungarian] actress and cabaret singer named Magda Förstner (dates unknown). She was also his model for the celebrated Satiric Dancer.

Text from the Getty Museum website

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Latin Quarter (Étienne Beöthy's Cousin)' 1927

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Latin Quarter (Étienne Beöthy’s Cousin)
1927
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Image: 3  7/8 × 3 1/16″ (9.8 × 7.8 cm)
Sheet: 4 15/16 × 3 3/16″ (12.6 × 8.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Fork' 1928

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Fork
1928
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, purchased 1978

 

 

On the edge of a dinner plate, Kertész posed an ordinary fork. Its shadow traces a faithful double across the tabletop and bends into slanted stripes along the plate’s lip. Clean and modern, simple and unpretentious, this photograph asserted that art could be made with the humblest objects so long as they were carefully observed. Fork, as it came to be known, was an instant icon, featured in numerous international exhibitions and publications almost immediately after its making. One review of an exhibition in which it appeared read, “Among the still lives, one must above all admire a fork by André Kertész – yes, simply a fork – which is almost moving in its purity and its tones. It is perhaps the only image that gave me the impression of a true work of art.” Fork may have been the last image Kertész printed in the carte postale format. In 1928 he acquired a smaller, lightweight 35mm Leica camera, which gave him increased mobility and spontaneity but produced negatives too small for contact printing. He began photographing regularly for Parisian magazines, allowing them to crop and sequence works according to their own preferences. And his work was included in more international exhibitions, for which larger prints were more desirable. Nevertheless, he must have appreciated seeing Fork at carte postale scale, since he printed it at this size on different papers around the same time.

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Legs' 1925

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Legs
1925
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Family Holdings of Nicholas and Susan Pritzker

 

 

On the back of this print, which he mailed home to Hungary, Kertész wrote, “Interesting coincidence. They claim it as being surrealistic, if it suits people better.” He recognised that the erotically suggestive image of overturned mannequin legs in a sculptor’s studio would have appealed to artists like photographer Man Ray, with whom he was becoming associated in exhibitions and criticism. But Kertész never embraced a fantastical approach to his work, maintaining firmly, “I am not a Surrealist. I am absolutely a realist.”

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Gundvor Berg in Her Studio' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Gundvor Berg in Her Studio
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Image: 10.9 × 7.2cm
Card: 13.6 × 7.6cm

 

 

Andre Kertész: Postcards from Paris; Edited by Elizabeth Siegel; With essays by Sarah Kennel, Sylvie Penichon, and Elizabeth Siegel. Distributed for the Art Institute of Chicago

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Jean Sliwinsky, Herwarth Walden, and Friends at Au Sacre du Printemps, Paris' 1927

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Jean Sliwinsky, Herwarth Walden, and Friends at Au Sacre du Printemps, Paris
1927
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

At the Exhibition

Kertész took this photograph at his first major exhibition, held only a year and a half after he arrived in Paris. The 30 photographs showcased the fruits of an extraordinarily productive period. The works on the wall in the background of this photograph focused on still lifes and scenes of Paris.

This group of Kertész friends includes the gallery’s owner, Jan Sliwinsky [seated centre in the photograph]. Sliwinsky, who was a composer and pianist, was instrumental in connecting expatriate artists, musicians, and writers.

Included in the exhibition was a print of Chez Mondrian [bottom row second from right in the above photo; and below], which later became one of Kertész’s most well known images. Made in painter Piet Mondrian’s meticulously arranged studio, it is a study in contrasts: rectangles against curves, smooth surfaces against rough, and light against shadow.

Kertész made more carte postale prints of this image than of any other from the period, evidence, perhaps, of how much he esteemed it at the time of its making.

The works on view reflect Kertész’s engagement with the Parisian avant-garde and his widening circle of international artist friends.

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Chez Mondrian' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Chez Mondrian
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
10.8 × 7.9 cm (image/paper); 37.2 × 27.4 cm (mount)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Julien Levy Collection, gift of Jean and Julien Levy

 

 

Kertész’s encounter with Dutch painter Piet Mondrian marked a turning point in the photographer’s early Paris years. The geometry and balance of Mondrian’s painting – which extended to his rigorously controlled studio space – had a lasting effect on Kertész’s work. He captured the painter and his living space several times, culminating in this image showing the door of Mondrian’s studio opening onto a common stairway. Kertész later recalled the moment he took the picture: “I could see how the inside and the outside contrasted and yet balanced each other, aided by the natural light and shadows… Everything was there before me.” Kertész made at least eight prints of Chez Mondrian in the carte postale format, more than of any other image, an indication of how much the artist appreciated it at the time of its making. The photograph eventually became one of his most famous and enduring works. Kertész trimmed and mounted the version here in the style he favoured for exhibition.

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Sculptures' 1927

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Sculptures
1927
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, gift of Patricia Corkin Kennedy and John Kennedy in honour of Jane Corkin

 

 

This photograph captures a tabletop sculpture by the German handcraft artist Hilda Daus. It can be seen third from left in the middle row of the Au Sacre du Printemps photograph.

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Hilda Daus' 1927

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Hilda Daus
1927
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Jane Corkin, Toronto

 

 

Hilda Daus was a German handcraft artist; Kertész also made a carte postale print of her delicate tabletop sculptures. He included the image here in his first exhibition in Paris, in 1927 at the gallery Au Sacre du Printemps, where Daus also exhibited.

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paul Dermée' 1927

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paul Dermée
1927
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Nicholas and Susan Pritzker

 

 

Belgian poet Paul Dermée was one of the founders of L’Esprit Nouveau, an avant-garde art journal that had ceased publication some years before but which he helped revive for one more issue in 1927. The issue, which debuted one month after Kertész’s exhibition at the gallery Au Sacre du Printemps, placed his photographs among works by an international group of artists active in Paris and elsewhere in Europe. Dermée also penned a poem in honour of the exhibition, which was featured on the invitation.

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Wall of Posters' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Wall of Posters
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund, The Manfred Heiting Collection

 

 

The exhibition also included Kertész’s scenes of Paris streets, made in a diaristic fashion on exploratory walks through his new city. This photograph [fifth from the left on the bottom row of the Au Sacre du Printemps photograph] demonstrates the artist’s new interest in the geometry of typography as well as his sympathy for the city’s clochards, or vagrants.

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Fairground, Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Fairground, Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Private collection, courtesy of Corkin Gallery, Toronto

 

 

Fairgrounds were particularly appealing to the photographer. Visitors could also have carte postale prints made of themselves playing games or posed in whimsical scenes. In this image [see third from left on the bottom row of the Au Sacre du Printemps photograph], Kertész capitalised on an elevated view, something he often explored in his portraits of artists in their studios.

Kertész’s exhibition shared the space with the abstract paintings of Ida Thal, another Hungarian artist. As the photographer absorbed formal lessons from avant-garde painters, sculptors, and designers, his work became more carefully composed.

Kertész’s exhibition drew praise from critics. The Chicago Tribune, reviewing the show, called him “one of the few talented photographers who recognise that their medium possesses the necessary qualifications for being an independent art.”

Unless otherwise noted, all works are by André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) and are gelatin silver prints on carte postale paper.

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Mondrian's Pipe and Glasses' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Mondrian’s Pipe and Glasses
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Family Holdings of Nicholas and Susan Pritzker

 

 

With this photograph [second from left in the bottom row of the Au Sacre du Printemps photograph], Kertész perfected his technique of making a portrait in the absence of the sitter, evoking the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian with only his glasses, pipe, and ashtray. Whereas his images of Mondrian’s studio emphasised the straight lines and right angles of the space, here Kertész highlighted circular elements that allude to human shapes amid a rectilinear environment.

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Mondrian's Studio' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Mondrian’s Studio
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
4 3/16 × 2 5/8″ (10.7 × 6.6cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund
© 2022 Estate of André Kertész

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Mondrian' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Mondrian
1926
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
4 5/16 × 3 1/8″ (10.9 × 7.9cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2022 Estate of André Kertész

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Géza Blattner' 1925

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Géza Blattner
1925
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
3 1/16 × 3 1/4″ (7.7 × 8.2cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2022 Estate of André Kertész

 

 

Géza Blattner (Hungarian, 1893-1967)

Hungarian puppeteer, painter/stage designer and director who worked mostly in France. Géza Blattner studied painting in Munich (Germany) with the Hungarian painter Simon Hollósy. He became involved with puppetry during World War I by collaborating on productions of the Budapest City Theatre. To the great dismay of his parents he then dedicated himself fully to puppetry and completed his training with Richard Teschner in Vienna and Paul Brann in Munich.

In Budapest, in 1919, he held his first “secessionist” puppet show for adults entitled Wajang játékok (Wayang Plays), (see Wayang) using flat figures animated by strings to present works by famous Hungarian authors such as Dezső Kosztolányi and Béla Balázs. Between 1919 and 1925, he attempted to recreate fairground shows with Antal Németh (1903-1967), who later became a famous Hungarian theatre personality and an influential advocate of puppetry. Blattner also experimented with new lever-operated puppets (also called keyboard puppets) which he later improved upon after he immigrated to France in 1925.

Géza Blattner settled in Paris where he established the Arc-en-ciel (Rainbow) Puppet Theatre. Artists from all over gathered around him: Constantin Detre, Sándor Toth, Marie Vassilieff … Others joined them later: Paul Jeanne, Frédéric O’Brady, Sigismund Walleshausen. The first important public show was in Paris at the 2nd UNIMA Congress in 1929. Up until 1934, Blattner performed experimental, “grotesque” or aesthetic pantomime productions with his puppets, and then later added classic mysteries and a variety of dramatic works.

Géza Blattner was one of the first to break with the traditional style of dialogue and naturalism to create a visual theatre that introduced new values in puppetry performance. He exerted a strong influence in Europe, especially in France and Hungary.

Géza Balogh. “Géza Blattner,” on the World Encyclopaedia of Puppetry Arts website (translated Anne Nguyen) 2013 [Online] Cited 11/04/2022

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Magda, Mme Beöthy, M. Beöthy, and Unknown Guest, Paris' 1926-1929

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Magda, Mme Beöthy, M. Beöthy, and Unknown Guest, Paris
1926-1929
Gelatin silver print on carte postale paper
Image: 3 1/8 × 3 7/8″ (7.9 × 9.8cm)
Sheet: 3 5/16 × 5 3/16″ (8.4 × 13.2cm)
© 2022 Estate of André Kertész

 

 

The postcards are beautifully executed and finished works. Mondrian’s Studio (1926; MoMA 1722.2001) is one of several prints made from a single negative, as Kertész refined this now-famous image by cropping it. Most of the prints, such as Magda, Mme Beöthy, M. Beöthy, and Unknown Guest, Paris (1926-1929, above), have been expertly retouched or etched with a sharp tool in order to remove technical flaws in the image, such the dust spots that inevitably occur during printing (fig. 13). Kertész also retouched his negatives to reduce what might be considered flaws in the appearance of his subjects, such as, in Mondrian (fig. 15), the lines around the artist’s mouth (fig. 16). Other prints show slightly more invasive interventions, where various design elements have been reinforced with an unidentified medium that has been so skilfully applied with a brush that it is difficult to see even under magnification (fig. 14). Such subtle alterations have been used by photographers since the invention of the medium.

Nancy Reinhold. “Exhibition in a Pocket: The Cartes Postales of André Kertész,” in Mitra Abbaspour, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg (eds.,). Object: Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909-1949. An Online Project of The Museum of Modern Art. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2014.

 

'André Kertész – Postcards from Paris' book cover

 

André Kertész – Postcards from Paris book cover

 

 

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15
May
22

Exhibition: ‘After August Sander: People of the 21st Century’ at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen

Exhibition dates: 28th January – 29th May 2022

Curator: Thomas Thiel

 

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Der erdgebundene Mensch' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Der erdgebundene Mensch (The earthbound human) / Peasant Woman, Westerwald
1912
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

 

I am not sure any of these kinds of exhibition – supposed extrapolations on the work of an earlier famous photographer, in this case contemporary photographers responding in diverse ways to renowned German photographer August Sander (1876-1964), icon of 20th century photography – serve any kind of lasting useful purpose, other than perhaps to acknowledge the alleged and, in most cases, slight influence of the earlier photographer.

While the contemporary work is strong in its own right, too often it seems shoehorned into the concept of the exhibition, artistic positions exhibited in order to revitalise the work of August Sander both directly and indirectly. Sander does not need revitalising… nor do the contemporary artists need the prop of his fame nor his conceptualisation of German identity, family and life to succeed with their projects. Their changed views of life and new influences on the individual are cogent enough – clear, logical, and convincing – not to need a conceptual walking frame.

However, the exhibition does give us the ability to, once more, marvel at the apparent simplicity and directness of Sanders’ portraits and the monumentality of his project “People of the 20th Century”. Frontal, low depth of field, beautiful light, tightly framed photographs which portray individuals as true characters who have undeniable “presence” in the viewers eyes. When thinking about the human condition, nothing in the rest of the exhibition comes close to their insight and intensity…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

At second left, August Sander’s Pastry Cook 1928; at fifth left, Coal Delivery Man c. 1915; at seventh left, Handlanger (Bricklayer / Handyman) 1928; and at eighth right, Working-class Mother 1927

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

At left, Mother and daughter 1912; at third left, August Sander’s Village Band 1913; and at fourth left, Farmer on his Way to Church 1925-1926; and at right, Cretin 1924

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by August Sander, Portraits of People of the 20th Century, 1912-1932, printed 1961-1963
Contemporary Collection MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

With his collection of portraits, “People of the 20th Century”, August Sander (1876-1964) produced a monumental life’s work that not only made photographic history but went on to influence generations of artists. The photographer, who was born in Herdorf near Siegen, depicted professional groups and social classes for several decades. Altogether he collected more than 600 images in forty-five portfolios, organising them into seven categories: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesmen, The Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City (city dwellers), and The Last People, who were found on the fringes of society. A selection was first assembled in the publication “Face of Our Time” (1929). By working on a portrait of society during his time, Sander not only developed archetypal images but also aimed to study the nature of man in relation to his community.

“After August Sander” combines the work of the world-famous yet regionally-based photographer with a contemporary perspective of 13 artists. At the heart of the exhibition is a group of 70 large-format photographs that Sander compiled as late as the early 1960s, also for presentations in the Siegerland. As a gift from Barbara Lambrecht-Schadeberg to mark the MGKSiegen’s 20th birthday, these are now being shown here for the first time. Starting out from this important group of works, the exhibition directs attention towards portraits of people in the 21st century and initiates further examination of images showing contemporary types.

The artistic positions exhibited revitalise the work of August Sander both directly and indirectly. The deliberate leap in time of about 100 years visualises our changed views of life and new influences on the individual. Despite the historical reference, “After August Sander” does not stick exclusively to the medium of photography, but presents video installations and sculptures in a reflection of our times.

With contributions by August Sander, Mohamed Bourouissa, Alice Ifergan-Rey, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Hans Eijkelboom, Omer Fast, Soham Gupta, Sharon Hayes, Bouchra Khalili, Ilya Lipkin, Sandra Schäfer, Collier Schorr, Tobias Zielony and Artur Zmijewski.

Supported by Kunststiftung NRW

Text from the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen website

 

 

Rooms 1 and 2

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie
1912
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Mother and Daughter' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Mother and Daughter
1912
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Village Band' 1913

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Village Band
1913
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Jungbauern' (Young Farmers) 1914

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Jungbauern (Young Farmers)
1914
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Coal Delivery Man' c. 1915

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Coal Delivery Man
c. 1915
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Polizeibeamter. Der Wachtmeister' (Police Officer) 1925

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Polizeibeamter. Der Wachtmeister (Police Officer)
1925
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Der Maler Anton Räderscheidt' (Painter Anton Räderscheidt) 1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Der Maler Anton Räderscheidt (Painter Anton Räderscheidt)
1926
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Zirkusartistin' (Circus performer) 1926-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Zirkusartistin (Circus performer)
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Handlanger' (Bricklayer / Handyman) 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Handlanger (Bricklayer / Handyman)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Pastry Cook' 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Pastry Cook
1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Boxers. Paul Röderstein and Hein Hesse. Köln' c. 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Boxers. Paul Röderstein and Hein Hesse. Köln
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)

The selection of large-format exhibition copies of People of the 20th Century being shown for the first time in the Museum für Gegenwartskunst was compiled from various portfolios by Sander himself in 1961/63. They were intended for presentations in the Siegerland region and printed by his son Gunther Sander under his own supervision. The occasion for this was provided by, amongst others, two exhibitions entitled Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time), shown in Siegen in 1964 and in the fire station close to Herdorf town hall in 1965. Beyond its international significance, for several reasons August Sander’s work also has considerable regional identification value. Sander was born in Herdorf and spent his childhood between Siegerland and the Westerwald. Siegen-based photographers Friedrich Schmeck and Carl Siebel inspired the young Sander to take up photography. Photographs dating from before 1914 were taken in or near his hometown and were subsequently included in the well-known picture atlas. He frequently spent time in the Westerwald and moved his residence to Kuchhausen due to the war in 1942. This exhibition brings a circle to a close in the MGKSiegen. Works by August Sander can now be shown permanently and as part of the collection in Siegen for the first time since the museum’s opening in 2001.

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Cretin' 1924

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Cretin
1924
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Farmer on his Way to Church' 1925-1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Farmer on his Way to Church
1925-1926
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Working-class Mother' 1927

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Working-class Mother
1927
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Putzfrau' (Cleaning woman) 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Putzfrau (Cleaning woman)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'The Industrialist' 1929

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Industrialist
1929
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

 

Rooms 3 and 4

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen, Contemporary Collection MGKSiegen showing at left, a work by Sandra Schäfer Kontaminierte Landschaften, (2021); and at right, August Sander’s Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie (1912) from “People of the 20th Century”, 1912-1932
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv; ©  VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung' 2021 (still)

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)
Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung
2021
Still showing the cover of August Sander – Líchtbíldner folio Der Bauer (The farmer)
© Sandra Schäfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Sandra Schäfer, Kontaminierte Landschaften' 2021 (installation view)

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Sandra Schäfer, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 2021, Courtesy the artist
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)

Sandra Schäfer’s artistic practice is concerned with the development of urban and geopolitical space and its history. Her works are often based on long-term research that involves a re-presentation of images, documents, and narratives. In her video installation Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung (2021), Schäfer – starting out from August Sander’s series of Westerwald farmers and rural labourers – deals with the transformation of the rural region in which she grew up, and by which she has been strongly influenced. Her great-greatgreat- aunt Katharina Horn, born Schäfer, and her husband Adam Horn, were also the famous farming couple that Sander photographed as early as 1912. The artist juxtaposes August Sander’s perspective with her own, contemporary view in the form of a double projection and two photographs. Schäfer shows how the landscape depicted and its agricultural use have changed over the course of time. She talks to relatives and farmers, as well as to photographic curators about Sander, his photos and the situation in the village of Kuchhausen. She is also interested in the value and varying attributions that the images have experienced in the art world and in private memories. The artist questions existing pictorial orders and narratives with her work, and so ventures her own personal search for home.

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung' 2021 (installation view not at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen)

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)
Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung (installation view not at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen)
2021
© Sandra Schäfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung' 2021 (still)

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)
Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung
2021
Still
© Sandra Schäfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

 

Room 5

 

Hans Eijkelboom. 'Photo Notes' 1994-2022 (installation view)

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Hans Eijkelboom, Photo Notes, 1994-2022, Courtesy the artist
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage)'

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage)
2006
Courtesy the artist

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage)' (detail)

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage) (detail)
2006
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)

As early as 1981, Hans Eijkelboom realised an “Ode to August Sander” by asking and categorising citizens of Arnhem, where he lived at the time, on the basis of their distinguishing features and developing the results into a multi-part series of street photographs. Since the early 1990s, the artist has been taking photographs in the business districts of large cities around the world. Unnoticed, he analyses the pedestrians passing by and focuses on them according to formal criteria of their external appearance. Eijkelboom’s gaze – with a thoroughly benevolent sense of humour – falls on the people’s clothing. Fashion statements and similarities in behaviour interest him in formal terms, as uniform codes. He arranges his snapshot-like Photo Notes into groups according to the motif and date of the shot, and then presents them in wall-sized tableaus. Arranged in this way, the exclusively colour portraits direct the viewer’s attention towards the human need to distinguish oneself by means of external features and so underline one’s own identity. In Eijkelboom’s photographs, this striving for individuality is exposed as an illusion due to global trends and milieu-related codes.

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed)'

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed)
2015
Courtesy the artist

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed)' (detail)

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed) (detail)
2015
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Room 6

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972) 'August' 2016 (still)

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972)
August
2016
Still
Courtesy the artist
Photo: Stephan Ciupek/Filmgalerie 451

 

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972)

In his films, Omer Fast frequently tells stories of trauma, war and relationships. His working method enables him to question current and historical events as well as the conventions of the cinematic narrator. The short film August (2016), shot in 3D, revolves around the life and work of August Sander, painting a fictional picture of his last days in the early 1960s. The cinematic flashbacks are oriented on biographical facts. In surreal dream sequences, Sander is haunted by memories: recalling his son Erich, who died as a victim of political persecution in a Nazi prison in 1944, as well as iconic motifs such as the Young Farmers or Workers hauling bricks. The film August shows both the visionary artist and the powerless man, scarred by personal loss and entangled in the political circumstances. Omer Fast deconstructs and at the same time contextualises the artist and man August Sander on the basis of his attitudes in an extremely difficult time politically, the late phase of the Weimar Republic and the transition to National Socialist Germany.

 

 

New Pictures: Omer Fast, Appendix exhibition video

This “New Pictures” exhibition [at the Minneapolis Institute of Art 2018] features two films by the Berlin-based Israeli artist Omer Fast (b. 1972), along with more than 20 portraits by the German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) from his series People of the Twentieth Century, selected from Mia’s and Minneapolis-based collections. Through reflections of Sander’s portraits, including Young Farmers (1914) and Bricklayer (1928), Fast’s latest film, August (2016), portrays Sander at the end of his life, tracing the photographer’s career during the transition from the Weimar Republic to Nazi Germany. Fast’s para-fictional (i.e., blending facts and fiction) film subverts the boundary between collective history and personal memory, questioning photography’s ability to tell the truth.

Text from the YouTube website

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972) 'August' 2016 (still)

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972)
August
2016
Still
Courtesy the artist
Photo: Stephan Ciupek/Filmgalerie 451

 

 

Room 7

 

Jos de Gruyter (Belgium, b. 1965) and Harald Thys (Belgium, b. 1966) 'Mondo Cane (The Town Crier)' 2019

 

Jos de Gruyter (Belgium, b. 1965) and Harald Thys (Belgium, b. 1966)
Mondo Cane (The Town Crier)
2019
Courtesy the artists and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin
Photo: Nick Ash

 

 

Jos de Gruyter (Beligian, b. 1965) and Harald Thys (Belgian, b. 1966)

Jos de Gruyter’s and Harald Thys’ works are devoted to the absurdity of the everyday. Their interest in the psychological state of societies leads them to create portraits of human existence both tragic and comical. The figures assembled here were part of the exhibition Mondo Cane (eng. Dog World) produced for the Belgian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. The presentation was conceived as a kind of folkloristic museum examining the human condition and its grotesque diversity. In the shape of partly mechanised, life-sized dolls, it gathered together simple artisans as well as madmen and outcasts. The doll heads were modelled on fictional characters as well as real people. Scattered throughout the exhibition rooms in Siegen we find a ventriloquist, a town crier, a Stasi spy and a French denunciator from the World War II era. As protagonists, they occupy the museum for the duration of the exhibition and interact with the other works. As representatives, the humorous and sinister characters refer to popular stereotypes as well as to historical attitudes and relationships within Europe.

 

 

Jos de Gruyter’s and Harald Thys’ work Mondo Cane (2019) at Biennale Arte 2019 – Belgium

 

Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys. 'Madame Legrand' 2019

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Madame Legrand, 2019
Courtesy the artists and Galerie Micheline Szwajcer
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 8

 

Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970) 'Ricerche: one' 2019 (still)

 

Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970)
Ricerche: one
2019
Still
Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin

 

 

Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970)

Sharon Hayes’ videos, performances and installations address the complex processes of shaping public opinion on politics, history, identity and language. Her film series Ricerche (engl. Research) began in 2013 and now consists of five parts. Her starting point was the documentary film Love Meetings (1964, ital. Comizi d’amore) by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who travelled through Italy to ask people of different ages and social backgrounds explicit questions about love, sexuality, and morality. Hayes follows the structure of the film and the conceptual idea of interviewing people outdoors and in groups. The video diptych Ricerche: one (2019) portrays two age groups: 5-8 year olds and young adults. All the participants in the video, shot in Provincetown (Massachusetts, USA), are children of queer parents. Depending on their age, they give fragmented or detailed insights into their complex family structures. The artist mirrors social understanding of gender dominated by the norm, sexuality and family constellations. She shows how present conditions shape national, religious and ethnic identities.

 

 

Biennale Arte 2013 – Sharon Hayes

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Sharon Hayes, Ricerche: one, 2019, Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 9

 

Mohamed Bourouissa and Alice Ifergan-Rey. 'Je vous raconte comment Mohamed Bourouissa a changé des chômeurs en sculpture dans un camion à Marseille' (I tell you how Mohamed Bourouissa changed unemployed people into sculpture in a truck in Marseille) 2019

 

Mohamed Bourouissa and Alice Ifergan-Rey
Je vous raconte comment Mohamed Bourouissa a changé des chômeurs en sculpture dans un camion à Marseille
I tell you how Mohamed Bourouissa changed unemployed people into sculpture in a truck in Marseille

2019
Still
© Mohamed Bourouissa /VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 and Alice Ifergan-Rey

 

 

L’Utopie d’August Sander, Mohamed Bourouissa, Alice Ïfergan-Rey

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Collier Schorr, Castle, 1994, Collier as Horst, 2021, Swimming Pool Eyes, 1996, A Possible Mutation, 1994, After Cindy Sherman, 1994
© the artist, Courtesy Stuart Shave/ Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'Swimming Pool Eyes' 1996

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
Swimming Pool Eyes
1996
Black and white photograph
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'A Possible Mutation' 1994

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
A Possible Mutation
1994
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)

Collier Schorr’s portraits can be positioned in the border area between documentation, staging and fiction. Her photographs explore the relationship between nationality, gender, and identity. For over 20 years, Schorr travelled to southern Germany every summer to visit the small town of Schwäbisch Gmünd. Her portraits of the town’s inhabitants taken against an authentic local backdrop reflect a fascination with a culture that was initially foreign to her. Collier Schorr places androgynous-looking teenagers in the German landscape, which she sees as pastoral. They are mostly male adolescents from her close environment, photographed in the garden, in front of and on trees, or in the forest. One of the main characters is Horst, and she adds a later self-portrait to this group: Collier as Horst (2021), wearing men’s underpants and gripping her crotch. These stagings, which dissolve gender boundaries by means of clothing, makeup and props, also include portraits of uniformed soldiers as pictorial subjects. In Matti at Attention (Durlangen) (2001), which shows a young man as a soldier in a forest clearing, the landscape takes on a symbolic charge and becomes a speculative space of remembrance. Aware of Sander’s photographic approach and the gaps in his reception, Schorr sets out to find her own Face of our Time that incorporates her Jewish origins and personal ideas of Germany.

 

After Horst

“I had these ideas about modern West Germany. It was silent. It was empty. The figures were small, or they were art students lined up in front of coloured squares of paper. Whatever I saw in the work of Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff was somewhat perfect, organised, static, airless. And frozen in time that looked like the 70’s. West Germany itself, a word I might see on a watch face or an Olympic memorial to the Israeli wrestlers killed by Palestinians in Munich. Somehow, I was there and not there. Dead, memorialised, alive and dead again.

I went to Germany in 1989. And again, for 20 summers. During the third summer I started taking photographs. I was convinced the German landscape held some truth other than the one I had seen in the large-scale imports I saw at 303 Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery. Schwäbisch Gmünd was soft and pastoral. And the local boys seemed soft and pastoral. I would have never made photos in New York. Nan Goldin, Jack Pierson and Larry Clark already made them. But in Germany, I could take a figure of my imagination and place them in the landscape memorialised by the Düsseldorf School. And I could as they say now – queer the space. So I shot my girlfriend’s nephew Horst and a fusion of myself and him, of a young girl and of a young boy of a woman who looked like a boy. I wanted to make him suffer for his luxury… as if he knew he had this luxury which I can never know. Ultimately, it’s a simple proposition. An image of queerness in an open airfield, rather than a club or a closet or a tenement New York apartment or West Side street corner. One image is called After Cindy Sherman because of how I wished I could use myself to talk about myself. But to do that I would have to find my image bearable and I did not. I saw Germany as a very romantic place and I attacked it and was seduced by it every year. I took the one category in August Sander’s work that the Düsseldorf kids didn’t touch: the Nazi’s. I thought to myself, wow, they really left those soldiers out. Don’t they realise that’s the guts and the ghosts worth tearing apart? I began to enjoy the fact that my story about Germany, my Antlitz Der Zeit, was completely ignored. Too romantic, too gay but not authored by a gay male, too Jewish but not Jewish enough, too personal.

Now I look at Horst and I think about my own body naked on the cover of Frieze magazine and dancing in a ballet I’m making. And posing with Jordan Wolfson in Fantastic Man. The same face the same hair. Over 30 years difference. Suddenly acceptable. Perhaps because the queer figure has more presence agency representation. I still find Horst, with his Levis’s and sweat socks, the tropes of Christopher Street and his teenage girl make up somewhat radical. Because he looks like a living paper doll. Dressed and pasted into a landscape to disrupt the pristine crisis of a German photograph, transmounted, with a wide white border, expansive and somewhat toeing the line.”

Collier Schorr. “After Horst,” on the Modern Art website March 2021 [Online] Cited 02/04/2022

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'After Cindy Sherman' 1994

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
After Cindy Sherman
1994
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'Wes Portrait' 2009-2018

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
Wes Portrait
2009-2018
Black and white photograph
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

Room 10

 

Bouchra Khalili (Moroccan-French, b. 1975) 'The Tempest Society' 2017

 

Bouchra Khalili (Moroccan-French, b. 1975)
The Tempest Society
2017
Still
Courtesy mor charpentier, Paris
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

 

Bouchra Khalili (Moroccan-French, b. 1975)

In her films, photographs, installations and publications, Bouchra Khalili examines the effects of colonial history on migration and political self-image. She provides a voice for social minorities, repeatedly formulating the links between individual actions and collective history. For the video work The Tempest Society (2017), which was shown for the first time at documenta 14, a group of Athenians come together on the stage of a former factory to talk about Europe and their own homeland. It is a portrait of three people from different social backgrounds who joined together to form a theatre group called The Tempest Society. The title is homage to Al Assifa (arab: The Tempest), a project by North African workers and French students who founded an ensemble in Paris in the 1970s to address issues such as racism and social inequality. The individuals in Khalili’s The Tempest Society also address similar problems in contemporary society: Ghani, Katerina and Malek talk about their experiences as people living in Europe and share their stories with each other. At the same time, it is about sharing a collective space – both on stage and in life, and about how the European continent may provide a home.

 

 

Bouchra Khalili. The Tempest Society / Twenty-Two Hours 24. August – 21. Oktober 2018

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Bouchra Khalili, The Tempest Society, 2017, Courtesy the artist
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 11

 

Artur Żmijewski (Polish, b. 1966) 'Dieter, Patricia, Ursula' 2007

 

Artur Żmijewski (Polish, b. 1966)
Dieter, Patricia, Ursula
2007
Still
Courtesy the artist, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warschau

 

 

Artur Żmijewski (Polish, b. 1966)

Artur Żmijewski is known for his works investigating historical as well as current social orders – often in a radical way, employing mechanisms of power and oppression. The human body is an essential means of expression in his provocative works, which are mainly interviews, documentaries or experimental settings. The trilogies Dieter, Patricia, Ursula (2007) and Katarzyna, Barbara, Zofia (2012) belong to a ten-part series, for which Żmijewski observed people in Germany, Italy, Mexico and Poland with his camera – each for over 24 hours, as they carried out a simple but often physically strenuous activity. In this case, he accompanies an excavator driver, a snack vendor, a tram driver and three cleaners in their everyday lives – from the moment they get up in the morning until they go to bed. From the footage, Żmijewski created a 15-minute portrait of each person, following the artist’s narrative structure alone, and simply showing what happens without any commentary. Routine and moments of repetition are common to all the portraits. Apparently individual, they are also representative of a group within society. The artist therefore functions, on the one hand, as a sociological catalyst of snapshots; on the other hand, the medium of documentary filming operates as an objective instance.

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
From left, work by Tobias Zielony, Selection of: Curfew, 2001, Ha Neu, 2003, Quartier Nord, 2003, Big Sexyland, 2006, The Cast, 2007, Trona – Armpit of America, 2008, Manitoba, 2009-2011, Jenny Jenny, 2013, Golden, 2018, Courtesy the artist and KOW, Berlin; and at right, Artur Żmijewski’s Dieter, Patricia, Ursula, 2007 (still), © the artist, Courtesy Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warschau
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 12

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Ilya Lipkin, Untitled, 2019, Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982) 'Untitled' 2019

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)
Untitled
2019
Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin

 

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)

In his work, Ilya Lipkin breaks with the conventions of applied and artistic photography, moving playfully between fashion and art, studio and street photography. His work is characterised by a self-reflective approach incorporating contemporary trends and styles. The series Untitled (2019) assembles a number of photographs of young women, all taken in public places in various cities around the world, including on Alexanderplatz in Berlin. Photographed with a fast-focus digital camera in burst mode, the images have been retouched and edited according to the usual standards of fashion photography. In some cases, the background was removed and replaced with bright red or neutral white. This immediacy reveals a generation of girls and young women who are extremely conscious of their own image, but also influenced visually by the clichéd image conventions of social media channels. Quite intuitively, they seem to deny us any insight into their inner selves. By means of clothing, style and technology, they express their desire to please in a global society rather than in specific subcultures.

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982) 'Untitled' 2019

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)
Untitled
2019
Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982) 'Untitled' 2019

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)
Untitled
2019
Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Tobias Zielony, Selection of: Curfew, 2001, Ha Neu, 2003, Quartier Nord, 2003, Big Sexyland, 2006, The Cast, 2007, Trona – Armpit of America, 2008, Manitoba, 2009-2011, Jenny Jenny, 2013, Golden, 2018, Courtesy the artist and KOW, Berlin
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Jay' 2007

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
Jay
2007
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Skandalous' 2007

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
Skandalous
2007
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)

In his photographs and videos, Tobias Zielony directs artistic attention towards youth subcultures and marginalised groups in society. His image cycles, developed over a long period of time and drawing on various means of pictorial reportage, are always characterised by a special intimacy and direct proximity. Social, media and subcultural changes provide the thematic framework for these photographs. In his work, Zielony has dealt frequently with the significance of origins, fashion, and the representation of identity. For this exhibition and with a view to August Sander’s portfolio work, he has now assembled a first selection of portraits from the last twenty years. On view are single, double, and group portraits ranging from the early series Curfew (2001), depicting youths in Bristol, to a more recent series, Golden, featuring Riga’s queer underground scene. The presentation highlights strategies of portraiture, masking as well as the increased intermingling of social and visual codes in global, mediatised cultural development. Zielony’s fascination with the people photographed reveals a fundamental human interest in the Other in the sense of experiencing foreignness and vibrancy apart from traditional social categories.

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Two boys' 2008

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
Two boys
2008
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973) From the series 'Golden' 2018

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
From the series Golden
2018
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

 

Room 13

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Soham Gupta, Untitled, from the series Angst (2013-2017), Courtesy the artist
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)

As early as 10 years ago, Soham Gupta began photographing people he encountered in the darkness by Howrah Bridge in the Indian megacity, Calcutta. The bridge connects the two Indian cities of Calcutta and Howrah across the Hugli River. Nearby is Howrah Railway Station, one of the largest railway stations in India. His photographs in colour and black and white capture people across all age groups, who seem to belong to the lower class. The living spaces captured in the photographs leave no doubt about their poverty and their status as social outsiders, abandoned and cast out. While these snapshots – glaring flash images set against dark backdrops – have a certain fleeting character and convey the impression of spontaneous shots, they are in fact the partly staged results of a development in the relationship between the photographer and the respective sitter. These people – individuals, couples or small groups – look towards the camera, towards the artist or their bodies are angled in his direction. Sometimes, they assume poses that seem grotesque. The series Fear poses the question of the photographer’s ambivalent role between the apparent objectivity of documentary photography and the importance of a subjective perspective. In essence, Gupta’s photographs focus on the human condition and search for a connection with marginalised groups in a society.

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen
Unteres Schloss 1
57072 Siegen
Phone: 0271 405 77 10

Opening hours:
Monday Closed
Tuesday 11am – 6pm
Wednesday 11am – 6pm
Thursday 11am – 8pm
Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 11am – 6pm

Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen website

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07
May
22

Exhibition: ‘Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection’ at the V&A Photography Centre, London

Exhibition dates: 6th November 2021 – 6th November 2022

 

Tereza Zelenková (Czech, b. 1985) 'Georges Bataille's Grave, Vèzelay' 2013

 

Tereza Zelenková (Czech, b. 1985)
Georges Bataille’s Grave, Vèzelay
2013
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23 x 29cm
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Tereza Zelenková

 

 

This is a fascinating and intelligent selection of photographs in the display Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection at the V&A Photography Centre, London which highlights photography’s power to transform the familiar into the unfamiliar, and the ordinary into the extraordinary. Each series shows honesty and integrity of conceptualisation and purpose, evidenced through strong photographs that engage the viewer in the visual narrative.

The catch all ‘Known and Strange’ somehow seems inadequate to describe the myriad threads of intertextuality (the way that similar or related texts influence, reflect, or differ from each other) and intersectionality (the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage) created by the nexus of this photographic display.

Of course, photographs can never been “known” in the truest sense: “A photograph, however much it may pretend to authenticity, must always in the final instance admit that it is not real, in the sense that what is in the picture is not here, but elsewhere.”1 Elsewhere, and always in the past. But if they cannot be known, this strangeness, their strangeness can open up a new language of visual literacy which offers the viewer new ways of approaching the world – by transcending past time into present future, time. By allowing the viewer the possibility of many different interpretations and points of view when looking at photographs. As Judy Weiser observes,

“Consider the situation of many people viewing the same photograph of a person very different from all of them. Each will be likely to perceive the photo’s subject a bit differently, depending on their own smaller differences from each other. Each person’s perceptions about that photo’s subject is indeed true and correct for that particular perceiver, even though possibly radically different from those of its other perceivers. If they can consciously recognise that all of them hold different truths about the photograph that are equally valid, they may begin to see that they need not feel threatened the next time they encounter a real-life person whose opinion or appearance is very different from theirs.”2

Following the last posting on Carnival attractions and circus photos where I showed photographs of burlesque and “girl revue” show fronts, the final and most essential selection in this posting – Susan Meiselas’ 1972-1975 Carnival Strippers series – goes behind the “front” to document the lives of women who performed striptease for small-town carnivals in New England, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. “Meiselas’ frank description of these women brought a hidden world to public attention, and explored the complex role the carnival played in their lives: mobility, money and liberation, but also undeniable objectification and exploitation. Produced during the early years of the women’s movement, Carnival Strippers reflects the struggle for identity and self-esteem that characterised a complex era of change.” (Booktopia)

Intense, intimate and revealing, the series proves that we can think we know something (the phenomenal) and yet photography reveals how strange and different each world is – whether that be in trying to understand the mind of the artist and what they intended in a constructed photograph or, in this case, having an impression of someone else’s life, a life we can perceive (through the “presence” of the photograph) but never truly know (the noumenal).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the V&A for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Annette Kuhn, The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1985, pp. 30-31.
  2. Judy Weiser, PhotoTherapy Techniques, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1993, p. 18.

 

This display highlights photography’s power to transform the familiar into the unfamiliar, and the ordinary into the extraordinary. Showcasing new acquisitions, it presents some of the most compelling achievements in contemporary art photography.

 

 

Tereza Zelenková (Czech, b. 1985) 'The Unseen' 2015

 

Tereza Zelenková (Czech, b. 1985)
The Unseen
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 100 x 125cm
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Tereza Zelenková

 

 

Tereza Zelenkova is a Czech-born artist known for her imaginative exploration of mysticism. She is inspired by literature and philosophy, but also values intuition and coincidence as essential guides in her creative process. Zelenkova’s work peels back the layers of myth that build up over time, interrogating the historical past of places and people, probing at folklore and imparting a modern sense of Surrealism onto familiar things, such as the grave of Georges Bataille, the Moravian cave of Byci Skala, or a statue by Michelangelo in the V&A’s cast courts.

Text from the V&A website

 

The first photograph I’d like to talk about is The Unseen. I get asked quite often how this sits within the series and what has been the inspiration for the image. Although I rarely stage my photographs, I had a quite clear vision of this particular photograph. It is an amalgamation of two themes that somehow merged in my mind and crystalized into this heavily distilled vision that I then went on to stage and photograph. Ever since I remember, I’ve been interested in photography’s peculiar relationship with death. It may sound like a cliché now but it can’t be denied that photography, similarly as a reflection in a mirror, offers the viewer aside of the image of his or her likeness also a glimpse of his or her mortality. Moreover, as Václav Vanek writes* when he talks about the loneliness and “deathly anxiety that we feel when, while trying to find a companion, we keep finding only a mirror image of ourselves and ultimately our death, which is always present in such mirroring”. Photography offers us both a promise of immortality alongside the reminder of our discontinuity. At the same time, due to its peculiar relationship with time, its strange stillness and minute detail it promises to reveal a bit more, something beyond the ordinary image of ourselves, or the everyday reality. It lures us to believe that it can see what’s unseen to the naked eye, that it can trespass the ordinary notion of time, and even blur the thresholds between the worlds of living and those long gone. Most of the people will be probably familiar with spirit photography, in which the 19th century society believed to find a way of communicating with their deceased loved ones. What’s interesting to note in this case is that the automatism of photographic medium was one of the key elements in this wide spread belief of photography’s ability to capture the world of spirits. Automatism of photography suggested the medium’s detachment from the cognitive processes of the human brain and its ability to tap into the unconscious, be it individual or collective. Automatism played a vital role not only in communicating with spirits, but also in early modernist art, especially in Surrealism. We have remarkable examples of automatic drawings, paintings or writings. In the Czech Republic, there’s a very special collection of such automatic drawings from the early 20th century, that however don’t come from avant-garde artists but from ordinary people found in one small region right at the foot of the tallest Czech mountain range, Krkonoše (Giant Mountains in English). From the end of the 19th century up until 1945, there seemed to be a golden age of Spiritism, that was however very unique to the region due to people’s relative isolation, living in the secluded farmhouses scattered at the foot of the mountains and meeting at each other’s houses for regular Spiritistic séances mainly held to bring back relatives who died during the war. The local people often used automatic drawing to receive hallucinatory visions from the other side and the collections of these remarkable drawings can be found in a museum in Nova Paka, but their notoriety goes well beyond the Czech borders as some of the finest examples of the so called Art Brut. So this is the first ingredient of my photograph. The second one is much more visual and comes as a snippet from a Czech fairytale Goldielocks, written by one of the most famous Czech 19th century writers, Karel Jaromír Erben. The scene that I used as a base for my photograph comes from the 1970’s version of the tale and it is a moment when the main hero needs to recognise Goldielocks, the princess with golden hair, amongst her twelve sisters, even though their hair is covered with a veil. I’ve always found the scene rather surreal and it immediately connected for me with the popular image of ghosts. There’s also something ritualistic and esoteric about the whole thing.

* In an introduction to a J.J. Kolár’s short story At The Red Dragon’s in a compilation of Czech Romantic prose.

Tereza Zelenková. “The Unseen,” on the Der Greif website July 02, 2016 [Online] Cited 22/02/2022

 

Tereza Zelenková (Czech, b. 1985) 'Giuliano de Medici by Michelangelo' 2013

 

Tereza Zelenková (Czech, b. 1985)
Giuliano de Medici by Michelangelo
2013
Gelatin silver print
40 x 30cm
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Tereza Zelenková

 

Tereza Zelenková (Czech, b. 1985) 'Tripod, Meridian Hall' 2016

 

Tereza Zelenková (Czech, b. 1985)
Tripod, Meridian Hall
2016
Gelatin silver print
29 x 23cm
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Tereza Zelenková

 

 

Opening November 2021, Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection will highlight photography’s power to transform the familiar into the unfamiliar, and the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Since its invention, photography has changed the way we see the world by inviting us to interpret reality in our own way. Known and Strange will focus on photography’s creative capacity to blur fact with fiction. The display will showcase over 50 recent contemporary acquisitions for the V&A permanent collection – created by established and emerging photographers across the globe – including Paul Graham, Susan Meiselas, Andy Sewell, Tereza Zelenková, Dafna Talmor, Zanele Muholi, Rinko Kawauchi, and Mitch Epstein. Each has expanded the ever-changing field of photography, both in terms  of stylistic experimentation and intellectual inquiry, and their work represents some of today’s most compelling achievements in contemporary photography.

The display title Known and Strange, originally from a line from the poem ‘Postscript’ by Seamus Heaney, is borrowed from a series of photographs by Andy Sewell and captures the sentiment of the works that will be presented in the display. Sewell’s series was taken on both sides of the Atlantic, taking as its visual and conceptual departure point places where internet cables are routed from the land to cross the seabed. The series – which will be presented in the display – explores the idea that the internet and the ocean, human communication and its related technologies, are both vast and unknowably strange.

Known and Strange will also feature diverse and innovative works within this broader theme, from Rinko Kawauchi’s focus on simple moments of illumination in everyday life and Mitch Epstein’s search for trees in New York City, to Zanele Muholi’s powerful series that exposes the persistent violence and discrimination faced by the South African Black LGBTQIA+ community. Tereza Zelenková – known for her imaginative explorations of mysticism – peels back the layers of myth that build up over time, whilst Dafna Talmor transforms her own photographs of landscapes by cutting them up and recombining them to create new hybrid compositions. In addition, the display will include over 20 photobooks by contemporary photographers, drawn from the collection of the National Art Library, further highlighting the innovation present in photography today.

The display will highlight the diversity of a medium that, through its malleability, allows for many different perspectives to be captured. As viewers, we can challenge everyday assumptions, be reminded of the world’s wonder, and perhaps poignantly, become aware that we might not be able to witness everything we want to during our own comparatively fleeting lives.

Press release from the V&A

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978) 'Untitled' 2020

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978)
Untitled
2020
From the series Known and Strange Things Pass
Pigment print
Purchase funded by Cecil Beaton Fund
© Andy Sewell

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978) 'Untitled' 2020

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978)
Untitled
2020
From the series Known and Strange Things Pass
Pigment print
Purchase funded by Cecil Beaton Fund
© Andy Sewell

 

 

“Known and Strange Things Pass is about the deep and complex entanglement of technology with contemporary life. It’s about the immediacy of touch and the commonplace miracle of action at a distance; the porosity of the boundaries that hold things apart, and the fragility of the bonds that lock them together.”

~ Eugenie Shinkle, 1000 Words Magazine

 

The photographs in this work are taken on either side of the Atlantic in places where the Internet is concentrated. Where the fibres come together, and almost everything we do online passes down a few impossibly narrow tubes, stretching along the seabed, connecting one continent to another.

Looking at these vast unknowable entities – the ocean and the Internet – we sense their strangeness. We can understand each conceptually but can only ever see or bump into small bits of them. They challenge our everyday assumptions and show us that the boundaries we put between things are more permeable than we might like to think. That the objects surrounding us daily, appearing so reliable and mundane, are actually parts of much larger, more complex, bodies extended across space and time.

The work is structured through the push and pull of intermeshing sequences. Things, in different times and places, intertwine and coexist. As we look closer, worlds we think of as separate dissolve into each other – the near and the distant, the ocean and the internet, the physical and the virtual, what we think of as natural with the cultural and technological.

Text from the Andy Sewell website [Online] Cited 22/04/2022

 

Installation view of 'Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection' display at V&A (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Installation view of Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection display at V&A showing at middle left the work of Andy Sewell from the Known and Strange Things Pass series
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Installation view of 'Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection' display at V&A (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Installation view of Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection display at V&A showing the work of Andy Sewell from the Known and Strange Things Pass series, installation of 20 framed prints (sizes 144 x 108cm to 28 x 21cm)
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978) 'Untitled' 2020

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978)
Untitled
2020
From the series Known and Strange Things Pass
Pigment print
Purchase funded by Cecil Beaton Fund
© Andy Sewell

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978) 'Untitled' 2020

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978)
Untitled
2020
From the series Known and Strange Things Pass
Pigment print
Purchase funded by Cecil Beaton Fund
© Andy Sewell

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978) 'Untitled' 2020

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978)
Untitled
2020
From the series Known and Strange Things Pass
Pigment print
Purchase funded by Cecil Beaton Fund
© Andy Sewell

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978) 'Untitled' 2020

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978)
Untitled
2020
From the series Known and Strange Things Pass
Pigment print
Purchase funded by Cecil Beaton Fund
© Andy Sewell

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978) 'Untitled' 2020

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978)
Untitled
2020
From the series Known and Strange Things Pass
Pigment print
Purchase funded by Cecil Beaton Fund
© Andy Sewell

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978) 'Untitled' 2020

 

Andy Sewell (British, b. 1978)
Untitled
2020
From the series Known and Strange Things Pass
Pigment print
Purchase funded by Cecil Beaton Fund
© Andy Sewell

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969) 'Lucy' 2018

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969)
Lucy
2018
Embroidery on gelatin silver print
292 x 444 mm
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Maurizio Anzeri

 

 

Italian artist Maurizio Anzeri lives and works in London. He uses delicate embroidery on vintage photographs that he finds at flea markets, creating otherworldly portraits and surreal landscapes. The subjects in Anzeri’s found photographs are transformed by his threadwork; the vintage photographs often appear at odds with the sharp lines and silky shimmer of the colourful threads. Through this combination of media, Anzeri’s works create a dimension where past and present converge.

Text from the V&A website

 

I work with sewing, embroidery and drawing to explore the essence of signs in their physical manifestation. I take inspiration from my own personal experience and observation of how, in other cultures, bodies themselves are treated as living graphic symbols. I then use sewing and embroidery in a further attempt to re-signify, and mark the space with a man-made sign, a trace. The intimate human action of embroidery is a ritual of making and reshaping stories and history of these people. I am interested in the relation between intimacy and the outer world.

~ Maurizio Anzeri

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969) 'Alex' 2018

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969)
Alex
2018
Embroidery on gelatin silver print
14 x 9cm
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Maurizio Anzeri

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969) Double and more, 5faces gent 2018

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969)
Double and more, 5faces gent
2018
Embroidery on gelatin silver print
82 x 20cm
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Maurizio Anzeri

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969) Double and more, 5faces gent 2018 (detail)

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969)
Double and more, 5faces gent (detail)
2018
Embroidery on gelatin silver print
82 x 20cm
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Maurizio Anzeri

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969) 'Heavenly Sounds Mountain Pink' 2018 (triptych)

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969) 'Heavenly Sounds Mountain Pink' 2018 (triptych)

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969) 'Heavenly Sounds Mountain Pink' 2018 (triptych)

 

Maurizio Anzeri (Italian, b. 1969)
Heavenly Sounds Mountain Pink (triptych)
2018
Embroidery on gelatin silver print
120 x 50cm (each)
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Maurizio Anzeri

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952) 'American Elm, Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn' 2012

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952)
American Elm, Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn
2012
From the series New York Arbor
Gelatin silver print
Purchase funded by Mark Storey and Carey Adina Karmel in memory of George Sassower
© Mitch Epstein

 

 

New York Arbor is a series of photographs of idiosyncratic trees that inhabit New York City; these pictures underscore the complex relationship between trees and their human counterparts. Rooted in New York’s parks, gardens, sidewalks, and cemeteries, some trees grow wild, some are contortionists adapting to their constricted surroundings, and others are pruned into prized specimens. Many of these trees are hundreds of years old and arrived as souvenirs and diplomatic gifts from abroad. As urban development closes in on them, New York’s trees surprisingly continue to thrive. The cumulative effect of these photographs is to invert people’s usual view of their city: trees no longer function as background, but instead dominate the human life and architecture around them.

Text from the Mitch Epstein website Nd [Online] Cited 22/04/2022

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Bakhambile Skhosana, Natalspruit' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bakhambile Skhosana, Natalspruit
2010
From the series Faces and Phases, 2007-2010
Gelatin silver print
Image: 76.5 x 50.5cm
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Award-winning photographer Zanele Muholi’s images offer a bold stance against the stigmatisation of lesbian and gay sexualities in Africa and beyond. The ‘Faces and Phases’ series of black and white portraits by Zanele Muholi focuses on the commemoration and celebration of black lesbians’ lives. Muholi embarked on this project in 2007, taking portraits of women from the townships in South Africa. In 2008, after the xenophobic and homophobic attacks that led to the mass displacement of people in that country, she decided to expand the ongoing series to include photographs of woman from different countries. Collectively, the portraits are an act of visual activism. Depicting women of various ages and backgrounds, this gallery of images offers a powerful statement about the similarities and diversity that exist within the human race.

“I am producing this photographic document to encourage people to be brave enough to occupy space, brave enough to create without fear of being vilified … To teach people about our history, to re-think what history is all about, to re-claim it for ourselves, to encourage people to use artistic tools such as cameras as weapons to fight back … forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure”

Faces and Phases is a commemoration and celebration of black lesbians, Transgender individuals and Gender non-conforming people from South Africa and beyond. Muholi embarked on this project in 2006. To date, more than 500 portraits are part of this series. Collectively, the portraits are an act of visual activism, depicting participants of various ages, backgrounds and at different stages of their lives. Faces and Phases started months before the Civil Union Act was passed in 2006, legalising same-sex marriage in South Africa. Muholi was aware of the absence of this community from visual history. Choosing to photograph people they know, the artist has maintained these relationships across time, producing follow-up images of some participants in different periods of their lives. The project is a living archive, and Muholi continues to introduce the audience to new participants.

 

“[The project] started in 2006 and I dedicated it to a good friend of mine who died from HIV complications in 2007, at the age of twenty-five. I just realized that as black South Africans, especially lesbians, we don’t have much visual history that speaks to pressing issues, both current and also in the past. South Africa has the best constitution on the African continent and, dare I say, world – when it comes to recognizing LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) persons and other sexual minorities. It is the only country on the continent that legalised same-sex marriage in 2006. I thought to myself that if you have remarkable women in America and around the globe, you equally have remarkable lesbian women in South Africa.

We should be counted and certainly counted on to write our own history and validate our existence. We should not feel that somebody owes us these liberties. So, it’s another way in which I personally claim my full citizenship as a South African photographer, as a South African female in this space, as a South African who identifies as black, and also as a lesbian. I’m basically saying we deserve recognition, respect, validation, and to have publications that mark and trace our existence.”

Anonymous text. “Zanele Muholi’s Faces & Phases,” on the Aperture Magazine website April 21, 2015 [Online] Cited 22/04/2022

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Sosi Molotsane, Yeoville, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Sosi Molotsane, Yeoville, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Faces and Phases, 2007-2010
Gelatin silver print
Image: 76.5 x 50.5cm
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Nosipho 'Brown' Solundwana, Parktown, Johnannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nosipho ‘Brown’ Solundwana, Parktown, Johnannesburg
2007
From the series Faces and Phases, 2007-2010
Gelatin silver print
Image: 76.5 x 50.5cm
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Amogelang Senokwane, District Six, Cape Town' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Amogelang Senokwane, District Six, Cape Town
2007
From the series Faces and Phases, 2007-2010
Gelatin silver print
Image: 76.5 x 50.5cm
© Zanele Muholi

 

Rinko Kawauchi (Japanese, b. 1972) 'Untitled' 2011

 

Rinko Kawauchi (Japanese, b. 1972)
Untitled
2011
From the series Illuminance
C-type print
Image: 101 x 101cm
Purchased with the support of Prix Pictet
© Rinko Kawauchi courtesy PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

 

 

These photographs are from the series Illuminance, which was nominated for the Deutsche Börse prize in 2012. In this series, Kawauchi continues with many of the themes and techniques that informed her earlier work, such as her focus on ordinary subjects and everyday situations. Her use of cropping and offhand composition as well as the subtle use of natural light evoke a dreamlike, poetical element in her photographs. Her focus in ‘Illuminance’ is on depicting the fundamental cycles of life within a personal interpretation, as well as exploring the seemingly inadvertent patterns that can be found in the natural world.

Text from the V&A website

 

Ten years after her precipitous entry onto the international stage, Aperture has published Illuminance (2011), the latest volume of Kawauchi’s work and the first to be published outside of Japan. Kawauchi’s photography has frequently been lauded for its nuanced palette and offhand compositional mastery, as well as its ability to incite wonder via careful attention to tiny gestures and the incidental details of her everyday environment. As Sean O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian in 2006, noted, “there is always some glimmer of hope and humanity, some sense of wonder at work in the rendering of the intimate and fragile.” In Illuminance, Kawauchi continues her exploration of the extraordinary in the mundane, drawn to the fundamental cycles of life and the seemingly inadvertent, fractal-like organisation of the natural world into formal patterns. Gorgeously produced as a clothbound volume with Japanese binding, this impressive compilation of previously unpublished images – which garnered Kawauchi a nomination for the Deutsche Börse Prize – is proof of her unique sensibility and ongoing appeal to lovers of photography.

Text from the Amazon website

 

In the words of the exhibition’s curator Verena Kaspar-Eisert:

The mindful awareness of what is special in simple things – which Rinko Kawauchi dedicates herself to in her photographs – must be contemplated on the background of the aesthetic concept of wabi-sabi. This philosophy postulates reduction, modesty and a symbiotic relationship with nature and is applied to many areas of life, whether architecture, dance, tea ceremonies or haiku poetry. Wabi-sabi allows room for “mistakes.” Applied to photography, the goal is not the “perfect photograph;” rather, expressivity and depth make a picture meaningful – and therein lies its beauty.

Anonymous text. “Illuminance,” on the Lens Culture website Nd [Online] Cited 22/04/2022

 

Installation view of 'Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection' display at V&A (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Installation view of Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection display at V&A showing at right the work of Rinko Kawauchi from the Illuminance series
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Rinko Kawauchi (Japanese, b. 1972) 'Untitled' 2011

 

Rinko Kawauchi (Japanese, b. 1972)
Untitled
2011
From the series Illuminance
C-type print
Image: 101 x 101cm
Purchased with the support of Prix Pictet
© Rinko Kawauchi courtesy PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

 

Rinko Kawauchi (Japanese, b. 1972) 'Untitled' 2011

 

Rinko Kawauchi (Japanese, b. 1972)
Untitled
2011
From the series Illuminance
C-type print
Image: 101 x 101cm
Purchased with the support of Prix Pictet
© Rinko Kawauchi courtesy PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

 

 

A photograph has the power to transform the familiar into the unfamiliar,  and  to make the ordinary extraordinary.  Since its invention, photography has changed the way we see the world by  inviting  us to interpret reality in our own way.  Its creative capacity to blur fact with fiction is the focus of Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection .

The display showcases over 50 recent contemporary acquisitions for the V&A’s permanent collection, created by internationally well-known names and emerging talents, including Paul Graham, Susan Meiselas, Maurizio Anzeri, Tom Lovelace, Pierre Cordier, Klea McKenna, Donna Ruff and James Welling. These artists have expanded the ever-changing field of photography, both through stylistic experimentation and intellectual inquiry. Individually and collectively, their work represents some of today’s most compelling achievements in contemporary photography.

The display highlights the diversity of a medium that, through its malleability, enables many different perspectives to be captured. As viewers, we can challenge everyday assumptions, be reminded of the world’s wonders and, perhaps poignantly, become aware that we might not be able to witness everything we want to during our own comparatively fleeting lives. The title Known and Strange, originally a line from the poem ‘Postscript’ by Seamus Heaney, is borrowed from a series of photographs by Andy Sewell. It captures the sentiment of the full collection of works on display.

The internet, carried by cables along the seabed, and the ocean above them are both vast and unknowably strange. In his series of photographs taken on either side of the Atlantic, Andy Sewell explores an entwining of ‘separate’ worlds – the immediate and distant, physical and virtual, natural and technological. Sewell describes how “the boundaries we put between things are more permeable than we might like to think. The objects surrounding us, appearing so reliable and mundane, are actually parts of much larger, more complex bodies extended across space and time”.

Tereza Zelenková is known for her imaginative explorations of mysticism. She is inspired by literature and philosophy, but also values intuition and coincidence as essential guides in her creative process. Zelenková’s work peels back the layers of myth that build up over time. Her photographs demonstrate how she interrogates the past, probing at folklore and overlaying a modern sense of surrealism onto objects that are loaded with history.

Dafna Talmor transforms her own photographs of landscapes by cutting them up and recombining them to create new hybrid compositions. Her work retains ghostly traces of the original locations through multiple negatives shot from different positions and places. She says “the idea that a single image is somehow insufficient is one that is also close to my own heart – particularly when that image fails to capture whatever it was about a site that motivated us to photograph it in the first place”.

Zanele Muholi‘s work exposes the persistent violence and discrimination faced by the South African Black LGBTQIA+ community. Describing themself as a visual activist, for this ongoing series Muholi photographed over 300 Black people living in South Africa who identify as lesbian, queer, trans or gender non-conforming, ranging from a soccer player to a dancer, a scholar to an activist. The portraits and their accompanying testimonies celebrate and empower each participant and, in Muholi’s words, are “a visual statement and an archive, marking, mapping and preserving an often-invisible community for posterity”.

Rinko Kawauchi focuses on simple moments encountered in everyday life: light caught in a mirror, spiderwebs threaded across garden plants or water splashing into a metal sink. Through the unusual compositional choices and the transformative effects of natural light, the objects take on a new meaning, changed into something poetic. The studies appear intimate and instinctive, capturing Kawauchi’s personal observations and encouraging the viewer to find beauty in the ordinary.

In search of trees, Mitch Epstein wandered the streets of New York City. This leaning elm, simultaneously restricted and protected by its concrete support, is a symbol of nature in an otherwise urban landscape. Epstein opens our eyes to the trees rooted in New York and their often-hidden presence in the city. His practice deals with looking and seeing, exploring the way that nature – its adaptability and endurance – can go almost unnoticed in a big city.

Anonymous text. “About the Known & Strange display,” on the V&A website Nd [Online] Cited 22/04/2022

 

Dafna Talmor. 'Untitled (NE-04040404-1)' 2015

 

Dafna Talmor
Untitled (NE-04040404-1)
2015
From the series Constructed Landscapes
C-type print
30.48 x 25.4cm
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Dafna Talmor

 

 

Constructed Landscapes is an ongoing project that stems from Talmor’s personal archive of photographs initially shot as mere keepsakes across different locations that include Venezuela, Israel, the US and UK. Produced by collaging medium format colour negatives, the process relies on experimentation, involving several incisions and configurations before a right match is achieved.

Transformed through the act of slicing and splicing, the resulting images are staged landscapes, a conflation combining the ‘real’ and the imaginary. Through this work, specific places initially loaded with personal meaning and political connotations, are transformed into a space of greater universality. Blurring place, memory and time, the work alludes to idealised and utopian spaces.

In Constructed Landscapes, condensing multiple time frames by collaging negatives to construct an image transfers the notion of the ‘decisive moment’ from the photographic act to the act of assembling and printing in the darkroom. In turn, fragments of varying source images collide and collude to create an illusory landscape; gaps and voids where negatives fail to meet or overlap mimic (and form new) elements of landscape, disrupting composition and distorting perspective.

In dialogue with the history of photography, Constructed Landscapes references Pictorialist processes of combination printing as well as Modernist experiments with the materiality of film. Whilst distinctly holding historical references, the work engages with contemporary discourse on manipulation, the analogue / digital divide and its effect on photography’s status.

Anonymous text. “Dafna Talmor | Constructed Landscapes,” on the Photofusion website Nd [Online] Cited 23/04/2022

 

Dafna Talmor. 'Untitled (JE-12121212-2)' 2015

 

Dafna Talmor
Untitled (JE-12121212-2)
2015
From the series Constructed Landscapes
C-type print
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Dafna Talmor

 

Installation view of 'Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection' display at V&A (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Installation view of Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection display at V&A showing at second right, Klea McKenna’s Life Hours (4)
(2019, below); and at far right, Dafna Talmor’s Untitled (JE-12121212-2) (2015, above)
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Klea McKenna (American, b. 1980) 'Life Hours (4)' 2019

 

Klea McKenna (American, b. 1980)
Life Hours (4)
2019
From the series Generation
Gelatin silver photogram
Gift of Jim and Ruth Grover
© Klea McKenna

 

 

The strength of a photogram is that it physically meets its subject and records that touch, the mark of an interaction. Photography, throughout its short history, has been modelled after the vision of an eye; a lens opens to record the light reflecting off of the world around it. By subverting this intended use and making touch more primary than sight, I urge my already antiquated medium forward – asking it to transcribe texture, pressure and force – to read the surface of the world in a new way. I use simple materials – analog light-sensitive paper, my hands, a flashlight and sometimes an etching press – to make “photographic rubbings” and “photographic reliefs”. In darkness, I emboss the paper onto the surface of patterns from the landscape or artefacts of material culture and then cast light onto the resulting textures. This method of working feels simultaneously like reading braille, like prayer and like gambling. Risk, faith, and touching the unknowable are all part of my practice. This method is unruly, revealing nuance beyond what my eyes or fingertips can confirm and inventing new marks along the way: evidence of the friction and limitations of my materials. Yet, even when used in this crude and unbidden way, photography has a gift for describing the strange detail of reality.

In “Generation” I apply this method to textiles and clothing from the last two centuries, objects rich in touch, from the labor of their making to the marks of wear. With each alteration, mending, and use someone has inscribed themselves onto these textiles. Just as each garment was made through the patient labor of one woman’s body, so is it undone that way, worn-down slowly, deconstructed, or cannibalised to make something new. The history of textiles, of clothing and style is made up of a million stories of migration, cultural appropriation and women’s labor and sexuality. They each contain moments of aesthetic innovation and decades of ordinary devotion.

I begin by researching each garment’s origin, construction, intended meaning and broader representation, piecing together a possible history from the available world of text and images. This is a poetic form of research; simultaneously a inquiry into what one can learn from a physical object – history having inscribed itself on the material world – and an acknowledgement of how little I can know from this distance; how much these textures show only the surface of someone’s experience and nothing of it’s interior. My goal is to find a fracture, an insight that allows me to re-animate these objects and illuminate them. My inquiry is evidenced in “Legend”, a printed journal that is a companion piece and key to these photographic reliefs. When amassed, this deluge of reference images becomes a visual history not of the textiles themselves, but of changing notions of femininity and ornament and of the West’s relentless appropriation of traditional fashion, patterns and symbols. It is a glimpse into a chaotic flowchart of influences, trends and the migration of objects that has shaped what women make and wear. My process of applying pressure – even to the point of disintegration – is driven by a desire for haptic communication with a distant time and place.

Klea McKenna. “Generation,” on the Lens Culture website Nd [Online] Cited 24/02/2022

 

Donna Ruff (American, b. 1947) '23.3.16' 2016

 

Donna Ruff (American, b. 1947)
23.3.16
2016
From the series Migrant, 2011-2016
Hand-cut pattern on deacidified newspaper
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Donna Ruff

 

 

Ruff’s Migrant Series uses cover pages from The New York Times as a point of departure; she has reshaped them with intricate cutouts that offer an alternative reading. Her hand-cut templates prioritise images over journalistic framing, and in a sense, people over politics. Her intricate patterns reflect designs found in Moorish tile work and screens found in the Middle East, Spain, and North Africa, while many of the highlighted images feature migrants, some juxtaposed with text or images specific to American culture – an image of Donald Trump or a headline referencing a Kardashian.

iana McClure. “Ima Mfon: Nigerian Identities / Donna Ruff: The Migrant Series at Rick Wester Fine Art,” on the Photograph website April 8, 2017 [Online] Cited 22/04/2022

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Carnival Strippers' book cover 1975

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Carnival Strippers book cover
1975

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Lena's first day, Essex Junction, VT' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Lena’s first day, Essex Junction, VT
1973
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Lena on the Bally Box, Essex Junction, Vermont' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Lena on the Bally Box, Essex Junction, Vermont
1973
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

 

From 1972 to 1975, Susan Meiselas spent her summers photographing women who performed striptease for small-town carnivals in New England, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. As she followed the shows from town to town, she captured the dancers on stage and off, their public performances as well as their private lives, creating a portrait both documentary and empathetic: “The recognition of this world is not the invention of it. I wanted to present an account of the girl show that portrayed what I saw and revealed how the people involved felt about what they were doing.” Meiselas also taped candid interviews with the dancers, their boyfriends, the show managers and paying customers, which form a crucial part of the book.

Meiselas’ frank description of these women brought a hidden world to public attention, and explored the complex role the carnival played in their lives: mobility, money and liberation, but also undeniable objectification and exploitation. Produced during the early years of the women’s movement, Carnival Strippers reflects the struggle for identity and self-esteem that characterised a complex era of change.

Text from the Booktopia website [Online] Cited 22/04/2022

 

Installation view of 'Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection' display at V&A (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Installation view of Known and Strange: Photographs from the Collection display at V&A showing at left, the work of Susan Meiselas from the Carnival Strippers series
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'The Star, Tunbridge, VT' 1975

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
The Star, Tunbridge, VT
1975
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'The Managers, Essex Junction, VT' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
The Managers, Essex Junction, VT
1974
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'New girl, Tunbridge, VT' 1975

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
New girl, Tunbridge, VT
1975
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

 

Wary of photography’s power to shape our understanding of social, political and global issues and of the potentially complex ethical relationship between photographer and subject, Susan Meiselas has developed an immersive approach through which she gets to know her subjects intimately. Carnival Strippers is among her earliest projects and the first in which she became accepted by the community she was documenting. Over the summers of 1972 to 1975, she followed an itinerant, small-town carnival, photographing the women who performed in the striptease shows. She captured not only their public performances, but also their private lives. To more fully contextualise these images, Meiselas presents them with audio recordings of interviews with the dancers, giving them voice and a measure of control over the way they are presented.

Additional text from Seeing Through Photographs online course, Coursera, 2016

Text from the MoMA website [Online] Cited 23/04/2022

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'End of the lot, Essex Junction, VT' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
End of the lot, Essex Junction, VT
1973
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Shortie on the Bally, Barton, VT' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Shortie on the Bally, Barton, VT
1974
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Tentful of marks, Tunbridge, VT' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Tentful of marks, Tunbridge, VT
1974
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Before the show, Tunbridge, VT' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Before the show, Tunbridge, VT
1973
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Curtain call, Essex Junction, VT' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Curtain call, Essex Junction, VT
1973
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Lena in the motel, Barton, VT' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Lena in the motel, Barton, VT
1974
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Mitzi, Tunbridge, VT' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Mitzi, Tunbridge, VT
1974
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Playing strong, Tunbridge, VT' 1975

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Playing strong, Tunbridge, VT
1975
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Sammy, Essex Junction, VT' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Sammy, Essex Junction, VT
1974
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Teen Dream, Woodstock, VT' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Teen Dream, Woodstock, VT
1973
From the series Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975, printed in 2016-2017
Gelatin silver print
292 x 444mm
Gift of Rafael Biosse Duplan
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Danziger Gallery

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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